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$10M in cash subsidies benefit 170K pregnant women, infants

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A pregnant womon leaves Phsar Doeum Thkov Health Center, Chamkarmon District, Phnom Penh yesterday. Hean Rangsey

$10M in cash subsidies benefit 170K pregnant women, infants

Over 170,000 pregnant women and children under the age of two have received social protection stipends totalling $10 million under a government cash transfer programme implemented since June 2019.

Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation and vice-chairman of the National Social Protection Board Vong Soth lauded the programme’s fulfilment during the past year despite obstacles including the Covid-19 pandemic.

Soth made the remarks during a meeting to review programme results from last year and formulate direction for this year on February 1.

He added that the cash subsidy programme for poor and vulnerable families was officially launched on June 24 by Prime Minister Hun Sen to alleviate hardships during the pandemic, and more than 710,000 families comprising more than 2.8 million people have benefited from handouts of nearly $232 million as of January 24.

Director-general of the ministry’s General Department of Technical Affairs Touch Channy told The Post that improvements in the programme’s implementation were due to government efforts to modernise its use of technology, facilitating access of recipients to services and cash payments.

“This programme has faced many challenges as it depends on modern technological systems. Previously, internet coverage was insufficient, but this is no longer a problem. Programme participants can now access money once they reach hospital,” he said.

Channy said government assistance for pregnant women and children under two years old would continue while the ministry works to provide IDPoor cards to eligible families.

“The family programme is similar to the transfer package for pregnant women in that benefits provided depend on the number of family members and their ages. Exact amounts remain to be determined as the programme is still under planning,” he said.

Gender and Development in Cambodia executive director Ros Sopheap supported the subsidies, saying they contributed to improving children’s nutrition in poor families. It aims to promote physical and intellectual growth as well as maternal and infant health, as these are key resources of society.

However, Sopheap urged relevant institutions to develop long-term strategies to address problems faced by women prior to pregnancy and also a lack of health care facilities in remote areas.

“I want the government to look further into the fact that women need strategic assistance with long-term effectiveness rather than their relying on the social services provided to them.

“The money provided can cover their costs for only a limited period. It would be better if we invest in the healthcare system to enable them to receive better healthcare every day. There are also shortages in some capacities such as supplies of medicines in remote areas,” Sopheap said.

The cash transfer programme for poor pregnant women and young children consists of three stages. The first entails a subsidy of 40,000 riel ($10) for each of four prenatal check-ups. The second stage provides 200,000 riel at childbirth.

The third stage provides 40,000 riel for each of the first four postpartum health check-ups and six child health exams including vaccinations prior to reaching two years old.

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