Thursday, October 29, 2015

Mapping communities targets support for vulnerable families

By Ariel Hofher
3-month-old Pyal Lima, in the arms of her mother, Sor Sreyna, has been granted an identity thanks to the birth certificate that her father is holding.
©UNICEF Cambodia/2015/Ariel Hofher

Imagine: neither you nor your neighbours have a radio or television. You have only a basic level of education. Your livelihood is dependent on the rice and cassava that your husband farms on his modest plot of land. If rain is minimal during the cultivation season, then crop production will be poor. If your harvest is insufficient, it is likely that your family members will frequently experience going to bed hungry. Your level 1 ID Poor Identification Card signifies that your household is at the lowest strata of poverty. Additionally, the day is nearing that you will go into labour, and until recently, you believed that your sole option was to give birth traditionally at home without a skilled attendant, rather than at a quality healthcare centre.

This is the reality for Sor Sreyna, 18, and her family, who live in the indigenous village of Pou Less, O Reang district. As a member of the Bunong ethnic minority community in Mondulkiri, these living conditions are similarly felt by their neighbours as well. Lack of awareness of, and limited access to, basic social services is a consequence of living remotely. When leaving Senmonorom, Mondulkiri’s provincial town, the 20 minute journey to Pou Less entails driving down a winding dirt road that awakens the notion of agricultural living. Roaming the land adjacent to the road are buffalo, cows, pigs, and dogs. The 94 less-than-adequately constructed shacks are all home to families from the Bunong community.

Sor Sreyna's house in Pou Less, Mondulkiri, where she lives with her parents, her husband, and her daughter.
©UNICEF Cambodia/2015/Ariel Hofher

To support people in this community, UNICEF has introduced social service mapping (SSM) to alleviate the effects of poverty in remote villages. SSM helps commune officers identify vulnerabilities faced by families like Sreyna’s, and improve access to basic social services.

Map of Pou Less drawn by village chief, Pyeuy Kim, showing household indicators.
©UNICEF Cambodia/2015/Ariel Hofher

On a self-drawn map of Pou Less, village chief Pyeuy Kim has indicated the geographic location of each household. With his map in one hand and his database in the other, Kim evaluates how many of the seven indicators each household meets upon his visit. Afterwards, he transfers these identifications beside the correlating household figure on his map. With this information, he determines which households are in critical need of social service aid.

At the moment, indicators of households in Pou Less reveal that 45 lack access to food for a period of two to three months of the year and 26 hold an ID Poor identification. Other indicators include if there is a latrine, if there are elderly or chronically ill family members, and if children have access to primary school.

This is an annual process and the data is shared with UNICEF and other partner organizations that work toward alleviating poverty in Pou Less. For example, each red symbol beside the blue-coloured homes on Kim’s map symbolizes where a latrine has been installed thanks to the Development and Partnership in Action (DPA). DPA works to reduce open defecation and improve access of sanitation facilities.

A latrine built by Development and Partnership in Action in response to sanitation challenges in Pou Less.
©UNICEF Cambodia/2015/Ariel Hofher

“Some families with a latrine still go to the bathroom outside because they do not have access to water,” Kim says.

“We use ours” says Sreyna, directing my view to the latrine structure standing behind her family’s home.

Backyard view of Sreyna's home with latrine constructed by DPA.
©UNICEF Cambodia/2015/Ariel Hofher

If you were not visiting Sreyna’s home, you could find this out by looking at household number 16 on Kim’s map. The map also indicates that they lack access to food for a period of two to three months of the year, and that they are ID Poor Level 1.

Sreyna's household identifications according to Kim's map.
©UNICEF Cambodia/2015/Ariel Hofher

UNICEF’s role is also attributable to raising awareness on healthcare services. Now, when Kim visits each household, he informs families on the importance of visiting the Dakdam health centre for child delivery.

Due to a lack of awareness, communication tools, and access to social services in the village, many families believed that if they could not pay, they would be denied access. The bumpy and mountainous dirt road journey to the health centre is two km from Sreyna’s home, and requires one litre of fuel costing 5,000 riel (about $1.25). The Bunong community members’ concern is not unwarranted. While an ID Poor Level 1 card grants free visits to the health centre through an equity fund, the cost is 20,000 riel (about $5) without it.

Dakdam commune's health centre, where Sreyna accesses vital services.
©UNICEF Cambodia/2015/Ariel Hofher

“I chose to go to the health centre because it is equipped with tools for a safe delivery,” says Sreyna as she breastfeeds Pyal Lima, her 3-month-old daughter. “I’m happy that I was encouraged to go to the health centre,” and explains that it was a trusting atmosphere.

When Lima is 6-months-old, Sreyna will have completed the period of exclusive breastfeeding, which she began three hours after delivering. When this day arrives, Sreyna told me that she plans to either feed her baby rice porridge or travel to the market where she will attempt to be persuasive in the hope of receiving donations because she cannot afford baby supplements.

Thanks to UNICEF’s efforts of raising awareness on the benefits of delivering at a health centre, Sreyna has been afforded another right: the knowledge of knowing that Lima has the opportunity to receive an education.

“When she becomes older, thanks to her birth certificate, my baby will be able to enroll in school,” Sreyna says proudly while taking out the official document from a well-sealed plastic folder. Sreyna obtained the birth certificate from the healthcare centre 15 days after Lima was born.

When I asked Sreyna of the possibility of Lima becoming a big sister one day, she smiled and said, “If I am to have another baby then yes, I will go to the health centre again”.

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