In the COVID-19 pandemic, Cambodia, like all countries, continues battling many social and economic problems. These are in addition to public health issues, including the ones now presented by the coronavirus. Of course, the new rules put in place to try to contain the virus are necessary. They will prevent further harmful health impacts. This we understand.
Gathering and movement limits are the ones that most affect CWS work. Already, the families and communities we work with are vulnerable. Fortunately, some of our work with them continues. Activities to improve water, sanitation, and hygiene include COVID-19 information now. Also, with individual families, or in socially-distanced gatherings of fewer than 10 people, we talk about proper handwashing as a key virus transmission prevention. As we share information, we lead by example about the importance of social distancing. But this is very difficult for everyone.
Luckily too Cambodia’s Ministry of Health has information, education, and communications materials ready for us to use. Now, our Battambang partner, ADOVIR, is using their posters and videos to support talks. And, because commercial face masks are not affordably available in the places we are working, ADOVIR is also sharing clean, new Khmer scarves. These come with a demonstration of how to use the traditional scarf effectively for COVID-19 protection. We are providing soap to the poorest of families, too. So far, we have directly reached nearly 500 people, including at least 238 women and girls, in about 100 families. In their villages, the virus has yet to have a direct impact. We hope changed behavior among all families will help keep them, and others with whom they share information, safe.
Besides expanded public information-sharing, CWS partners continue our work with individual families to build latrines. This is another support to better hygiene overall; so, this helps.
Vath Sarorn, who is a Commune leader in one area where Promoting Better Lives continues, commented, “It is really tough for my people now. This virus is a risk to health .. and to livelihoods. Most people are daily wage laborers. Now, travel restrictions and closure of the Cambodia-Thailand border [has put them] out of work”. Still, Mr. Sarorn continued, we “thank organizations [like yours for] support during these critical times”.
Despite his expressed gratitude, we know that Mr. Sarorn is very worried. We at CWS and our partner teams are worried too. The impact COVID-19 is having in villages where we work to help families better their lives will continue. And we recommit ourselves to continue all WASH and livelihoods support work as we can now and when it is safe to do more in the future.