Socheat lives in Cambodia with her grandparents and younger sister. A few years ago, her parents left to work in neighbouring Thailand. They used to support her financially, but COVID-19 has left them unemployed. On top of this, heavy floods damaged her village, leading to food shortages and the closure of schools.
Socheat was worried she wouldn’t be able to catch up on her lessons. Cash assistance from the EU, distributed by Save the Children to families affected by the floods, helped her go back to learning.
It is a bright and sunny Monday in Tmar Kaul, a small district in Cambodia’s northwestern province of Battambang. 14-year-old Tao Socheat is enthusiastically preparing her school bag – it is her first day back to school after recent floods forced the school the close for several weeks and she can’t wait to see her friends.
Socheat is a seventh-grade student from Kouk Khmum secondary school located about 2.5 kilometres from her home. She lives with her grandparents and younger sister in a small house constructed entirely from rusted metal sheets.
A few years ago, Socheat’s parents migrated to work in neighbouring Thailand in the hope of paying off their debt. They would normally send 80 US dollars to her every month to cover daily expenses, pay back their loan and buy school materials.
Socheat with her grandparents. © Yous Ratha/Save the Children Cambodia.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has left her parents unemployed, and unable to offer adequate financial support. The situation worsened in October last year when heavy downpours caused severe flooding that affected tens of thousands of people across the country.
Several infrastructure and facilities, including roads, schools, health centres and agricultural lands were damaged and destroyed.
Socheat’s family was unable to flee to safer ground when floodwaters rapidly submerged many areas of the village. They subsequently faced a shortage of food, being able to afford only noodles and eggs every day.
‘Everything was too expensive,’ Socheat said. ‘I had to eat less because we didn’t have any money.’
Reacting to the floods
In addition to impacting her wellbeing, the floods also affected her education. Although online classes were available, it was not something Socheat could take part in, as she could not afford a smartphone.
She lost her school uniforms and studying materials to the floods, which meant she also couldn’t return to school when it reopened. ‘I missed so many classes during the school closure,’ she said. ‘I am worried I won’t be able to catch up on my lessons.’
With humanitarian funding from the European Union, Save the Children and its partners, including World Vision Cambodia, provide cash assistance to cover the basic needs of 3,000 families affected by the floods in Battambang province.
Socheat teaches her younger sister. © Yous Ratha/Save the Children Cambodia.
Under the programme, Socheat’s grandmother Chay Moum receive 50 US dollars on behalf of Socheat as her guardian. ‘I was so happy to receive the cash. It was invaluable,’ said Mrs Chay Moum, Socheat’s grandmother. ‘I could now send my granddaughter to school and also buy rice and food for the family.’
‘That cash is precious for my family and me,’ added Socheat with a big smile.