COVID-19 (coronavirus) continues to spread globally and has reached Cambodia. Cambodia has taken early and decisive measures to prevent the inflow and spread of COVID-19. Consequently, there have been few confirmed cases in Cambodia. As the battle against the virus continues, the risks of illness and economic fallout remain. Despite there being few cases, household-level shocks caused by COVID-19 can have a long-lasting and disproportionate impact on the poor and vulnerable. This creates an urgent need for timely data collection to monitor and mitigate the socio-economic impacts of the shock.
To monitor the household-level impacts of COVID-19 in Cambodia, the World Bank, in collaboration with the National Institute of Statistics (NIS), designed and implemented the High Frequency Phone Survey (HFPS) of households. The team selected a subsample of households that had been interviewed for the Living Standards Measurement Study – Plus (LSMS+) in 2019 covering urban and rural areas of Cambodia. The team also selected another subsample of households that was drawn from a list of beneficiaries of the conditional cash transfer program for pregnant women and children under two.
The survey questionnaire is designed to cover important and relevant topics, including knowledge of COVID-19 and adoption of preventive behaviors, access to food staples, food insecurity, impact of COVID-19 on economic activities and income, coping mechanisms, and access to social assistance.
Survey data collection started in mid-May 2020. The same households are called back every 8 weeks, and will be tracked over 10 months. This will enable the monitoring of the impact of the pandemic and inform government action. The survey is implemented using Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing. The typical survey duration is 20–25 minutes.
- Cambodians show high awareness of social distancing and other preventive measures to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection. However, knowledge does not fully translate to practice as relatively fewer respondents apply these basic hygiene and social distancing measures.
- The economic slowdown due to COVID-19 has resulted in a reduction of income from all sources (except for pensions) among both rural and urban households.
- To cope with the income losses, households have reduced both food and non-food consumption.
- Given the widespread reduction of income, government support is needed, particularly for poorer households.
- The expansion of existing social protection schemes (through cash transfers) will help mitigate the pandemic’s impact on the poor and vulnerable but may not be enough to fully compensate for the welfare loss.
- Despite COVID-19, markets are still supplying a variety of basic necessities. Most households that sought to buy staple foods and medicines were able to do so.