Helping Cambodian Children Grow with Practical Solutions

Wednesday 31 May 2017

Life in one of the most attractive worldwide tourist destinations Angkor Wat—“the ultimate expression of Khmer genius”—is not easy. Although overall poverty has declined steadily over the past decade, Siem Reap, the home of Angkor Wat, remains one of the most impoverished provinces in Cambodia with 20% of its population identified as poor.

Ms. Oeub Hoeub has a son who is nearly one year old now. When Phavin was born, Oeub, like many other Cambodian mothers, dreamed of a brighter future for her son but worried that her family does not earn enough for him to even graduate from the high school. As daily laborers, Herb and her husband earn $2-3 per day, and are qualified by the government to receive social assistance.

In 2016, with help from the local Commune Council, Oeub enrolled in the USAID’s Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Initiative for poor families with pregnant women and children under two. Under this initiative, eligible beneficiaries can receive up to six payments—to reach a total of $65—over the “first 1,000 days”. Funds are transferred directly into the woman’s bank account after certain conditions are met. These conditions include at least four antenatal care visits, childbirth at a health care facility, two postnatal care visits, and monthly growth monitoring for children under two.

As a CCT beneficiary, Oeub participated in the village fair where—along with many other villagers—she learned how to make fish powder from small rice-field fish, build a handwashing station, and set up a nutrient-rich micro-garden at home.

“I really loved the agriculture demonstration,” said Oeub. “I am so proud of the knowledge that I gained from the village fair. I now grow nutritious vegetables in my garden and save money.”  

Oeub applied what she learned at home: she created a small home garden with amaranth, morning glory, eggplant, pumpkin; set up a handwashing station; regularly makes fish powder and cooks nutritious food for her son. She also learned about the importance of tracking her child’s growth and how USAID-trained health volunteers can help her. She takes her son to monthly growth and promotion sessions, and she is happy to see her son growing well and healthy. Oeub has already received two payments for meeting the CCT conditions. She used the money to buy vegetable seeds to plant in her home garden, chickens, fish to make fish powder for her son, and soap for handwashing. 

Oeub is one of 12,200 poor women from 427 villages benefiting from the CCT initiative. By focusing on “the first 1,000 days,” the initiative provides poor women like Oeub with low cost solutions and small financial incentives to help prevent malnutrition in their children. Well-nourished children are more likely to go to school, more likely to stay in school, and less likely to struggle academically. Oeub’s son is only one now, but he is already quick to learn and his future is looking brighter every day.