Cambodia – August 2020: COVID-19 rapid needs assessment of older people


The impact of COVID-19 in Cambodia has four broad dimensions; health, economic, socio-cultural and political. According to the Global Health Security Index report in 2019, Cambodia ranked 89th out of 195 countries in preparedness for infectious disease outbreak. The country has limited capacity in terms of its public health services to deal with this disease.

The government has not closed all international land borders with neighbouring countries. However, restrictions have been imposed on the entry of foreigners from countries with high number of reported COVID-19 cases. According to the Interior Ministry’s report, more than 90,000 migrant workers returned (without income) to the country. Businesses in tourism, entertainment and education industries have also been ordered to close. Similarly, Cambodia’s garment and footwear industries, and many small and local businesses have been greatly affected. Physical distancing and wearing of masks have been observed in some places but many have described Cambodia’s environment and government measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic as “relaxed” compared to its Southeast Asian neighbours.
Recently, the Cambodian government has taken quite a lot of preparedness and responsive actions, including providing social assistance to the most vulnerable people. In late May, the government introduced a cash transfer scheme which is a part of social assistant programme to the families with ID poor cards. Even though it is good news for the people with ID poor cards, the programme seems to have limited coverage due to errors in the identification process.

Cambodia has 1.3 million older people, the majority (84%) of which are living in rural areas where the health system is weak. Over 70% of older people are reported as poor but only 8% of them are under the ID poor scheme of the government. Many of these older people do not have proper income—most of them are reliant on income from their children who are currently being negatively affected by the economic fallout caused by COVID-19.
To assess the challenges facing older people and to inform programming and policy decisions, HelpAge Cambodia conducted a multi-sector Rapid Needs Assessment in May 2020.

Key findings

  • 34% of the older people surveyed have reduced the quantity of food eaten since the outbreak of COVID-19, while 16% have reduced the quality. Also 52% of older people have only sufficient food in their homes to last 2 days.
  • 67% of older people do not know where their nearest treating facility is for COVID-19.
    The top four perceived safety risks that older people face are financial abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, and physical abuse.
  • 40% of older people are feeling worried or anxious most of the time while 31% some of the time. Furthermore 35% of older people reported that they feel depressed about the current situation most of the time.



Source: HelpAge International