Like other countries, COVID-19 has impacted Cambodia over the past few months. Many people––especially manual labourers––lost their jobs, and even those with good jobs were laid off as businesses and the tourism industry shut down. In rural villages, people could at least eat the food from their land to supplement the lost earnings, but in Phnom Penh, the capital, and places where the large factories are, many people have no other means of providing food. As many countries are no longer purchasing and importing goods, Cambodia’s large textile industry has also been greatly impacted. So even if factories found a way to stay open, they have lost their international market.
Some families are in a desperate situation without daily income, as they have no savings and the government is not providing sufficient resources for all. Some people have had their property and homes confiscated when they failed to pay back their loans.
During COVID-19 OM in Cambodia has remained open to the community where they work – adapting their hours and the flow of people in the office to adhere to government regulations. The staff is involved in teaching hygiene and preventative care about the virus in the slums where much of their ministry occurs. They met with families individually doing home visits, helped distribute hand sanitizer and masks to those who couldn’t afford them and continue to provide counselling and advice to many.
The community trusts the team and comes to them for help. Recently, more people than usual have needed food assistance, due to the loss of jobs. As people walk into the OM office, they receive much more than a bag of rice to sustain their family for a while – they are engaged in conversation and offered the chance to share their burdens in a safe environment.
Home visits have also been a key platform to address family concerns. People shared with the OM team about issues that are tearing their family apart such as the strain of not finding work, the uncertainty of the future and the drug and alcohol habits of family members. Families were told by the government to stay home: but for many large families living in tight quarters, their house is not a place of refuge. Tensions are high, and parents especially are turning to desperate measures to provide for their families.