Health Equity Fund System gives rejuvenated hope to Cambodian family

Mrs. Sear Siv is a 51-year-old widow with four young adult children. They live in Srey Rong, a village in Kampong Thom province in Cambodia. Together, they own part of a rice paddy does not provide enough food for the year. They eke out a living by harvesting rice and other vegetables, weaving palm fronds, and even working in Thailand for extra income, for a combined, irregular income of 9,000 Riels (USD$2.25) per day, on average. The family cannot afford any livestock and occasionally are forced to borrow rice from neighbors to get through the day. This family’s survival is fragile; there is no ‘rainy day fund’ for medical emergencies.

These are the kinds of family that Cambodia’s Health Equity Fund (HEF) helps, by providing free medical care and covering associated costs. Without the HEF, families like Sear Siv's would face financial catastrophe in the event of a health problem.

One of Mrs. Sear’s daughters was experiencing a difficult labor and childbirth but did not know where to turn for help. Her relatives had no means to help them and rumors in the village stated that the hospitals were not accepting patients with the HEF card. A community volunteer with Action for Health—a local NGO that assists HEF card-carrying households to navigate the public health system and ensures that they receive the services they need—assured her that if she went to Stung Treng Referral Hospital, 21 Km from her village, the HEF system would cover all fees, food allowances, and transportation costs. Armed with this knowledge and her HEF card, Mrs. Sear took her daughter to the hospital, where the midwives determined that the young mother needed an emergency Caesarean section. Daughter and baby are healthy, and the burden of the medical fees and expenses related to their care—more than 400,000 Riels for fees, food allowance, transportation, and 11 days of hospitalization—was assumed by the HEF system.

URC supported the government of Cambodia to create the HEF system, which gives vulnerable populations free access to health services, 10 years ago. URC assisted the government to develop a national strategy and surveillance system to ensure that those meeting poverty criteria have access to high-quality health services. URC continues to support the HEF system, as well as the country’s health system in general, through the Social Health Protection (SHP) Project.

Mrs. Sear says that without HEF, the family would have had to sell their portion of the rice paddy and surely would have been destitute. Now that she understands what HEF can do for her and her children, she has greater peace of mind about their health needs and feels rejuvenated.





Woman is seated on the floor and weaves a mat from palm fronds.
Mrs. Sear Siv weaves palm frond mats to sell for extra income at the local market.
May 21, 2015
Regions/ Countries