Photo credit: Christine Redmond
In Cambodia, Aide et Action has launched a food distribution project for families who, in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, are struggling to feed their children. By deploying it last week in a poor district of Phnom Penh, we were able to support families who usually depend on school meals provided in our informal education centres.
The closure of schools around the world not only has a negative impact on children's right to education, but also on other basic human rights such as the right to food. Indeed, as the pandemic continues, access to school feeding and nutrition services usually provided by schools for marginalised children is suspended. In Cambodia, where 32% of children under five are reportedly stunted due to malnutrition, the coronavirus poses an additional threat to their healthy development.
School closures deprive children of their school meals
This is why, in Phnom Penh, the capital, Aide et Action is working with the YMCA to identify families who are struggling to feed themselves due to the impact of the Cornavirus. To support them, we are now providing them with 10 kg of rice every month for the next three months. Within the framework of the Cambodian Consortium for Out-of-School Children, run by Aide et Action, the children of these families are usually hosted in a non-formal education centre in the disadvantaged area of Posenchey. However, in line with Coronavirus prevention measures, the centre had to close its doors temporarily in March. This not only interrupted education, but also resulted in a loss of nutrition, as two meals a day were provided to local children.
" Today I am relieved. We needed itHoat Channa, a 35-year-old mother of six, said as she picked up her parcel. My husband is a tuk-tuk driver but now he has no customers and we can't feed our children like before. "Unfortunately, the situation of Channa and her family is not unique. The World Bank suggests that poverty in South East Asia and the Pacific region could affect an additional 11 million people if conditions worsen.
The growing risk of street work for out-of-school children
While we are currently addressing basic needs such as health, sanitation and nutrition, we also want to emphasise that educational needs cannot be forgotten and have an equally damaging impact if not addressed. While schools remain closed, out-of-school children from disadvantaged backgrounds are engaged in precarious street work activities such as collecting plastic, selling food or collecting wood. " At the moment my children are working outside school "confirms Channa.
As Ruvini Wanigaratne, Programme Manager for Aide et Action in South East Asia, explains, " The effect of the coronavirus is likely to be long-lasting. The interruption of education may have long-term implications - particularly for the most vulnerable, such as those living in the poorer areas of Phnom Penh ". Therefore, it is urgent that these vulnerable communities receive immediate support to continue living in dignity and health.