With the financial support of the Germany and Australia through the German Agency for International Cooperation, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme, the Ministry of Planning announced new family identification procedures and extended coverage to vulnerable families.

Minister of Planning Chhay Thorn said at an October 12 press conference that the purpose of introducing the new procedure was to focus on seven key points.

These included the resilience of poor household identification, the shift from round data collection to collecting as required, inclusive of vulnerable households, updates to the scoring system and questionnaire, a digitalisation process and new functions to edit data. The last point was the introduction of an accountability mechanism.

Thorn added that there were five categories of vulnerable households: those with members who are disabled, elderly or under 18 or two years of age, as well as those with a female head. Each of the five classes would be identified and registered in the ministry’s database.

The identification of vulnerable households will be carried out by commune working groups, with the support of the capital and provincial departments of planning.

Thorn said that the work of identifying poor families was first established as a key step on the path to better social protection and common prosperity fifteen years ago.

It was the first national mechanism designed and approved by the Cambodian government.

Currently, millions of people across the country benefit from this mechanism. The data collected is important not only for the government, but for development partners, NGOs and other stakeholders, who use it to plan social assistance interventions.

“Our joint efforts over the years have allowed the identification of poor families to evolve into social protection programmes. The planning ministry is proud that the data is widely used by the government and development partners for social protection interventions,” he said.

According to Thorn, the data has been in use since 2007. In 2008, when Cambodia was hit by catastrophic flooding, poor families with equity cards were taken care of. The data was first used for food programmes and scholarships for poor primary school students in 2019.

The cash assistance programme for pregnant women and new mothers has contributed to reducing the poverty and improving well-being of mothers and babies, he said. In 2020, a cash transfer scheme began assisting those who had been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

This year, the government is preparing cash assistance for vulnerable families who are experiencing inflationary pressures.

Am Sam Ath, deputy director of rights group Licadho, said that the introduction of social protection mechanisms was necessary as Cambodia – as well as the world – was facing the Covid-19 crisis, which had led to many people losing their jobs and falling into poverty.

“The policy is good, but the ministries and institutions related to eligibility assessments must ensure transparency and fairness, so that the poor can receive social protection,” he added.

Thorn said joint efforts and sustainable investment in the social protection system has provided many benefits to the poor. In collaboration with the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation’s National Social Security Fund, the government has implemented a cash subsidy programme for impoverished families affected by Covid-19.

Since June 2020, approximately $800 million have been shared with around 700,000 households, a total of about 2.8 million people, he added.