Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation Vong Soth has urged the members of the public who received support from the government’s social assistance programmes to make good use of the money. He noted that no matter how much the state helped them, only they could eventually lift themselves out of poverty.

In the past four years, the government has provided over $1 billion in social assistance cash transfer programmes.

Soth made the call as he chaired a May 10 meeting to evaluate the results of the 2022 social assistance programme and set plans for 2023.

“Until now, at no point in my lifetime has the government provided money to the poor. It has always supported civil servants and other state employees, but now, we are assisting over one million households who do not work for the state – that’s four or five million people. They were affected by the global pandemic, and the state sought to help them,” he said.

He explained that the government has prioritised assisting the poor and the vulnerable, but the assistance will not be provided forever. The aid was designed to ensure that their families did not suffer, and if possible, make it possible for them to have the capital to free themselves from poverty.

Director of the Department of Social Welfare Chhour Sopanha said that the programme was first offered to the poor and vulnerable during the Covid-19 pandemic in June of 2020. Over 750,000 households, or three million people, have received over $1 billion in cash transfers. The first phase of the 14th round of payments is currently underway.

He added that the social assistance programme has also been provided to pregnant women and mothers with young children since June 2019. A total of 314,032 beneficiaries have received $23.97 million in payments. The programme is ongoing.

He also noted three occasions when support was provided to the victims of flooding. In December 2022, and the first two months of this year. Nearly 100,000 households received about $11.70 million in payments under the programme, which will end on June 10.

An additional $26.36 million was released to support 3.34 million people who were suffering from inflationary pressures. The programme began in June last year and will come to an end this June.

Erna Ribar, UNICEF’s chief of social policy and research, said the cash transfer programme had contributed to the protection of many of the Cambodian people, especially children and the vulnerable.

“We estimate that about four million Cambodians including children, pregnant women and the elderly received support from these social protection packages. We see this as an unprecedented huge investment by the Cambodian government in helping the social services sector to help protect the poor and vulnerable,” she added.