Prime Minister Hun Sen said the government continues to implement social protection policies and has introduced additional social assistance intervention to alleviate difficulties and improve the plight of poor people, especially women and girls.

In a July 6 address ahead of the 32nd World Population Day to be observed on July 11, he said the government is implementing programmes to support pregnant women and their families in poor living conditions, and raise “labour cash” to help workers laid off during times when factories and business have closed due to Covid-19.

He said the Ministry of Economy and Finance recently decided on the procedures to implement the social assistance programme for people and households facing hardship, including residents and families of people infected with Covid-19 and having living difficulties, and families of people who have died of Covid-19.

Hun Sen said the government will examine the possibility of providing assistance to all IDpoor card holders through the Health Equity Fund and cover workers in the civil service system through the Civil Servants Health Insurance Programme of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF).

The prime minister stated that the government also places high priority on the public health sector by increasing interventions and the budget every year, especially in the field of reproductive and sexual health.

This was to promote reproductive and sexual health as a means of achieving reduced maternal and infant mortality levels as set out in the Health Strategic Plan, National Strategic Development Plan and Sustainable Development Goals.

Affiliated Network for Social Accountability executive director San Chey said that the government system for allocating cash to vulnerable people during the Covid-19 period, especially to those who hold IDPoor I and II card, was effective.

However, Chey said that in recent times, the government’s work has changed a lot and reacted too much to criticism, especially during the lockdown. The government did not provide timely social assistance.

Phay Siphan, a government spokesman, said the government provided social assistance to affected people in priority areas during the Covid-19 outbreak. But it took time for people to receive support.

“We have a budget to send to the sub-national level. We do not lack funds. We do it incrementally and it depends on priority areas. If there are any gaps, local authorities can work with emergency assistance from the Red Cross in providing timely assistance,” he said.

Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation secretary of state Samheng Boros said the government has so far spent $300 million on social assistance to poor households during the Covid-19 pandemic. If the provision of assistance to workers and other socio-economic rehabilitation is included, the amount increases to nearly $1 billion.