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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Tuol Sambo improves: groups

Tuol Sambo improves: groups

We find that family conditions are better... and there is more dignity and hope.

GROUPS providing aid to a notorious Dangkor district relocation site for HIV-affected families say residents’ short-term food needs have been met, and that they are making progress in securing long-term employment and housing, painting a far more positive picture of conditions at the Tuol Sambo neighbourhood than they did a few months ago.

More than 60 HIV-positive individuals from about 40 families were evicted from the Borei Keila community in central Phnom Penh to the site on the outskirts of the capital last June and July.

In August, four HIV/AIDS NGOs published a field report warning that the lack of food at the site was “potentially life-threatening”, and concerns about the food situation were renewed in a UNAIDS site visit report produced last November, which stated that access to “more than the minimum food package (rice, salt, oil)” was “crucial” given that most families did not have a secure income.

At that point, the families were receiving food packages from the World Food Programme, but that organisation’s commitment expired at the end of January.

Since then, however, the local NGO Caritas Cambodia has begun providing food packages, which are distributed by the Women’s Organisation for Modern Economy and Nursing (WOMEN).

Kim Rattana, executive director of Caritas, said the families are receiving 50 kilogrammes per month of rice along with “other nutritional foods like soy sauce, fish sauce, dry fish, soya milk and sausages”.

In general, he said, conditions at the site have improved since it was first settled.

We find that family conditions are better... and there is more dignity and hope.

“We find that family conditions are better,” he said.

“They are feeling happy, and there is more dignity and hope.”

This assessment was echoed by UNAIDS Country Director Tony Lisle, who said improvements had also been made to the families’ housing and employment situations.

“There is better sanitation, housing and skills training,” he said. “The community seems much happier.”

Some improvements, however, have yet to be implemented. The families are still living in the green sheds that greeted them when they arrived at the site, although the construction of new homes is set to be completed in May.

And though many of the families have participated in a range of vocational training programmes, not all residents said these had sufficiently bolstered their incomes.

Vin Thy, 36, said she had preferred living in Borei Keila, where she could earn more money as a dishwasher and as a scavenger.

A vocational training programme run by the NGO Cambodia Knits has taught her to make finger puppets, but she complained that these only sell for 2,000 riels (about US$0.50) apiece. Given that her husband, 67-year-old Prom Pel, is unable to find a job as a construction worker, the family barely earns enough money, even with the food packages provided by Caritas, which are expected to end in August.

Yim Sam Art, 36, said he was happy at the new site, though he, too, said he was earning less. “Before I worked as a pork deliverer, and I could earn $5 for half a day of work,” he said. “[Now] I work 20 days a month and earn around 15,000 riels per day.”

Kim Rattana, however, said employment prospects for the families were improving, and that nearly all families had at least one member earning $50 per month.

“They work as moto drivers, construction workers and other work,” he said. He added that Caritas plans to remain involved with the site for another three years after it ceases to provide food packages.

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