Nearly 200 representatives of the elderly in Cambodia have called on the government to consider prioritizing cash grants for the elderly to help them deal with their health issues after the pandemic.
The call came during the second National Forum on the Elderly, which was held on September 13 in Battambang province under the theme “Social pensions for the elderly in Cambodia”. The forum was organized by HelpAge Cambodia, OXFAM and UNDP in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans Affairs and Youth Rehabilitation.
The first such forum was held in Phnom Penh in February last year, with the participation of 150 representatives.
Tum Vira, executive director of HelpAge Cambodia, said providing support to older people is crucial to protecting their well-being.
“Despite the considerable efforts of the government to address the plight of vulnerable people – including the elderly – through social assistance policies and programs, the elderly still face many problems that remain unresolved,” a- he declared.
Vira said Cambodia and Laos are the only Southeast Asian countries that do not yet have social pension programs for the elderly.
He said this second forum was an opportunity to present sufficient evidence for the government to consider preparing a “Family Package Programme”.
According to a research report on “Older people’s income and social protection during and after the Covid-19 pandemic” – carried out by the National Institute of Social Affairs in early 2021 – around 55% of respondents said that their income had been affected and they were not earning enough to meet the cost of living. This is despite the fact that 45 percent of respondents receive assistance through the government’s cash transfer programme.
At the end of 2018, the institute also conducted a study on “The needs and challenges of the elderly in Cambodia” in five provinces. He confirmed that family support, mainly from their children, was the main source of income for 71% of elderly people in the Kingdom.
The report pointed out that many people have fallen into poverty as they age. Women, in particular, were more likely to be dependent on household members, as most spent their working lives in unpaid work – caring for children and doing housework.
Researchers from both studies urged the government to consider developing cash support programs for the elderly to prevent them from falling into poverty.
Mey Eng, a 68-year-old man from Nom Kreap village of Prek Preah commune in Battambang city, who was also present at the second forum, said the government should provide cash assistance to the elderly as most can’t work.
“I want to receive a state subsidy so I can buy medicine if I get sick,” she said.
Thiv Sam Ath, a 75-year-old man from Prey Kuy village of Prey Kuy commune in Kampong Svay district of Kampong Thom province, said receiving government support is important, especially for the elderly. whose families are poor, or those who, like him, suffer from a disability.
“I really need a grant to cover my daily expenses, including food and medicine,” he said.
Phean Sophoan, OXFAM Cambodia Country Director, said her organization was proud to have worked directly with HelpAge to give older people a voice and advocate for their access to social protection, especially in times of crisis.
“The elderly are an important human resource for their families and for society. Unfortunately, they still face issues of discrimination, job bias, exclusion from family decision-making and loneliness,” she said.
She added that migration has shifted many family economic burdens onto the elderly, as they are often unable to earn an income as they are
rely on to take care of her grandchildren. This means that they lose opportunities to participate in social activities and often do not have access to health care.
State Secretary at the Ministry of Social Affairs, Samheng Boros, told the Post that despite the current Covid-19 crisis in the country and the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, the government is paying close attention to the plight of people, especially elderly people and poor families. It has provided cash payments to more than 300,000 seniors since June 2020, he noted.
“Due to a limited national budget, the government must target the poorest and most vulnerable, as they need additional support more than others,” he said.
Boros added that the government was continuing to extend cash support to those living near the poverty line, and that there could be a more permanent policy implemented by the end of the year.