Very Few Disabled Cambodians Receive Government Aid, Study Shows

Less than 4 percent of disabled Cambodians receive any form of financial assistance from the government, according to a trio of Australian researchers.

Drawing on Cambodian Socio-Economic Survey data from 39,886 households the government collected from 2009 to 2014, the upcoming study is the first to calculate the median cost of disability in the country. It suggests that those with functional disabilities incur additional monthly expenses of $40.

The poverty rate among households with at least one moderately or severely disabled member is 18 percent, higher than the national average. Adding the extra expenses pushes the poverty rate among those households to 34 percent, the study says.

“Without accounting for the cost of disability, national estimates of poverty are under-estimated,” study author Michael Palmer, a research fellow at the University of Melbourne, wrote in an email.

Government estimates of disability rates among Cambodians range from 1.5 to 4 percent—figures that are likely elevated by the consequences of decades of war, according to the researchers.

Though the government passed a sub-decree in 2011 entitling citizens living with severe functional impairments to a monthly pension, the survey found that less than 4 percent of eligible households received such benefits.

Those receiving aid are likely getting support through army pensions, said Ngin Saorath, executive director of the Cambodian Disabled People’s Organization. The government has only just begun a general disability pilot program on October 24 with about 320 participants in Pailin province, he said.

“We hope that this one succeeds [and] we can expand to all provinces in the country,” Mr. Saorath said, adding that recipients receive a monthly payment of 20,000 riel, or $5, from the Ministry of Social Affairs. For now, the benefits are given for three months to a year depending on the severity of their impairment, he said.

“We start with something small…. As tax revenue increases, the government could reconsider how to support the disabled community.”

Officials from the Ministry of Social Affairs, which has $1.2 million set aside for the pilot project, could not be reached for comment.

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