The Real Cost of COVID to Cambodian Girls

Updated: Feb 16, 2021

More than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, with the majority of Europe still in some state of lockdown, in comparison, southeast Asia remains seemingly much more in control of the situation. Cambodia, and its neighbours, continue to report relatively low infection rates. Astoundingly, as of the February 10th 2021, Cambodia stands at 474 reported cases since the beginning of the pandemic, no deaths and a current average of 1 case per day [Ministry of Health].

What differentiates countries from southeast Asia, such as Cambodia, from other countries in the Western world? With a fairly weak health care system, a large outbreak would have had devastating consequences. Prevention and control measures aimed at preventing the introduction of cases from abroad and the proliferation of cases from within, as announced by the country's Ministry of Health, together with several factors were in Cambodia’s favour.

Firstly, the tropical and humid climate is not conducive to rapid transmission of COVID-19. Added to this the lack of public transport- most people travel in the open air, and live and work in well-ventilated spaces, which we know is important in reducing incidents where transmission can occur. Furthermore, there is a relatively small, and importantly, young percentage of the population living in urban areas; we know that age is a considerable factor in COVID mortality.

All in all then, upon investigation from the information available, Cambodia looks ready to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic with a population that is relatively unscathed. But as time goes on, researchers have started to look at ‘second-hand’ casualties of the pandemic; that is, casualties not directly related to the illness itself, but as a result of the economic and social impact of the measures necessary to limit the spread of the disease.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has already warned of the effects of lockdown on world poverty, and the Cambodia Ministry of Finance estimates poverty will increase from 11% to 14% in the Kingdom. This is a very real threat in less developed nations like Cambodia, where there is already large disparity and 35% of people live below the poverty line.