Recently our 24-Hour Hotline received a call from a woman who wanted to let us know about a young couple whose 2-year old boy was in the hospital. The little boy, Samnang*, was seriously ill but the family was very poor; they couldn’t afford the hospital fees and often did not even have enough money to buy food.

After meeting with the parents our social workers learned that the family had moved to Sihanoukville about two months ago to find work as laborers in one of the many construction sites around the city. The father earned about $10/day as a worker, but the income was not stable, as like most workers he didn’t work or get paid when it rained. The family was living in a very small room at the construction site, a room that had no running water, no toilet, and not even any windows. When their little boy got sick and his condition worsened they had taken him to the hospital. With both parents staying with their son at the hospital there was no income for the family.

Our social workers immediately provided the family with emergency supplies of food. The team also tried to help the family obtain a Health Equity Card from local authorities that would allow them free treatment at the government hospital, but this was unsuccessful as like many transient laborers they did not have the appropriate official government identification or documents with them. Failing that, the team helped the family negotiate a more reasonable payment fee for their son’s treatment that would not put the parents deeply in debt.

The social workers continued to follow up and regularly visit the family until their son recovered and they were discharged from the hospital. The father resumed working but the mother told us that after her husband was paid next they would be returning back to their homeland that even though the wages are higher in Sihanoukville, the city was too expensive to live in. She expressed their gratitude to the M’Lop Tapang staff that had helped them get through this crisis. “Almost never in my whole life time has someone helped like this at a time when we had nothing.”

*name and photo changed for confidentiality