By Victoria Enström and Hun Sovadhanak
KAMPONG THOM, Cambodia, 4 July 2014 – Chuy Tha, 32 and her three children have been identified as one of the most vulnerable families in Pey village, Sam Proch commune, Kampong Thom province. Tha and her husband work on other people’s land and only earn 10 000 riels (US$2.5) per day. The family does not have a safe water source and used to drink water directly from a pond in the rice field. When the Sam Proch commune council was made aware of the situation of Tha’s family, it provided them with a ceramic water filter that makes the water safe to drink. ”Now we no longer have diarrhoea and the water doesn’t smell or taste bad” says Tha. Her 12 year old daughter Ohl Thin adds, “We use it every day.”
As a sub-national tier of the national government, the commune council’s elected members have a vital role to play in each of the commune’s 17 villages. They help to ensure that critical social services are provided to marginalized and vulnerable children and their families. Every commune council has a commune committee for women and children (CCWC), which monitors the situation of children and women within the commune and provides advice to the commune council to budget effectively for the delivery of social services based on the needs of children and their families.
Social service mapping and the ‘social service envelope’
The commune council has identified 167 vulnerable children and 34 women in Sam Proch commune. They achieved this through a process called ‘social service mapping.’ With UNICEF support, local decision makers in the commune council have been trained to use a participatory process involving female and male villagers, to plot - on a map - all households, existing facilities, resources and services, along with gaps in the provision of services including access to safe water, school enrolment, and antenatal care.
The commune’s annual budget from the Royal Government of Cambodia, is supplemented with financial assistance from the UNICEF-supported ‘social service envelope’, specifically to address critical social service issues affecting these vulnerable children and women in the community. This allocation is made possible with generous funding from the Japan Committee for UNICEF. The funding also supports training for local leaders on the best way to use and prioritize its social service budget.
Families receive support for their children’s schooling
Sothea, 8 years old, is a preschool student in Pey village whose family was also identified as vulnerable. The household has no access to a latrine or clean drinking water and lack enough food. The family of five has only a small piece of land but every year the crops are washed away during the two month flooding period. When this happens they fish to earn approximately 10,000 riels per day (US$2.5) - less if it’s a bad day. Sothea’s family spends this money on food at the market and transportation costs to get there. As a result the family has no money left to pay 15,000 riels (US$3.5) for Sothea’s school uniform.
Following the social service mapping, the commune council identified Sothea’s family for support. The commune provided Sothea with a school uniform, pencils, notebooks and a school bag, which she really appreciates. “They still look new. I am happy to be in school now, where I can play with other children,” says Sothea with a smile, “I want to be a nurse when I grow up, because then I could take care of other people.”
Sothea’s mother Soth San says: “We are poor but we want Sothea to be able to stay in school. With the help from the commune she might be able to do so.”
In addition to assisting these vulnerable families, the commune council has identified early childhood education as the next priority for its social service budget with a community preschool on the cards for Pey Village in the next semester.