Unconditional Cash Transfers Respond to Children’s Needs
It is 12pm a Monday afternoon in Thma Koul district, Battambang province, where Socheat, a 14-year-old girl, is preparing her bag to go back to her newly reopened school. Her school had to close for a while because of flooding. She happily talked about her excitement after she received an unconditional cash transfer from Save the Children. “When I got the cash, I was thrilled because that cash helped me when I needed it,” Socheat said.
Tao Socheat is a seventh grade student from Kouk Khmum secondary school, which is located 2.5 kilometres from her house. She lives with her grandparents and her younger sister in a small house with rusted roof and zinc as walls. Her parents migrated to work in Thailand when she was 10 because they were in debt. Her parents usually send her 80 US dollars every month to cover daily expenses, pay back their loans, and buy study materials. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, they had to cut back on the amount of money they sent to Socheat because they lost their jobs.
In October 2020, Cambodia experienced heavy rainfall, affecting tens of thousands of people. Roads, schools, health centres and agricultural land were damaged or destroyed. Socheat told us that she could not move somewhere else because of a high-speed of water wave. She faced shortages of food, eating only noodles and eggs at every meal. “Everything was too expensive and I had to eat less because we couldn’t find money,” Socheat said.
Socheat continued telling us that she could not access online studying because she does not have a smartphone. She worried that she would not be able to catch up on her lessons because she missed so many classes while her school was closed. She also worried about the many drug users in her village, fearing for her family’s safety. “I miss my parents so much sometimes I dream about them,” revealed Socheat “I felt warmth when I stayed with them.”
In early 2021, with support from the European Union, Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO), Save the Children and its partners World Vision Cambodia, Hagar Cambodia, Komar Rikreay Association - KMR provided unconditional cash transfers to cover the basic needs of 3,000 families affected by the 2020 floods in Battambang province. Since Socheat is under 18 years old, and is therefore not eligible to withdraw the cash herself, she had to receive the cash through an adult that she trusted. Mrs. Chay Moum, Socheat’s grandmother, received USD50 on her behalf to cover her expense.
“I was so happy to receive that cash, it was really incomparable,” explained Mrs. Chay Moum, Socheat’s grandmother. “I bought rice and food for my family and I could send my granddaughter to school once it opened.”
“That cash is extremely valuable for me and my family even though it wasn’t much. We bought rice, food, and school uniforms and study materials when we did not have anything at all after the flood was gone,” described Socheat “I used it for extra learning as well.”
Socheat is a good granddaughter and sister as she always teaches her younger sister to read books and looks after her great grandmother, helping to prepare food, wash clothes and do household chores.
Socheat expressed thanks to the organization [Save the Children] that provided her such valuable cash assistance to help her continue learning and have enough food to eat. When we ask what she wants to be in the future, she proudly says, “I want to be a policewoman when I grow up.”