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Poor To Receive Emergency Aid Package

The Asia Development Bank said Wednesday it would provide $35 million in emergency food aid to counter rising food and fuel prices gripping the country.

The aid would go to families living in seven provinces around the Tonle Sap lake and in the slums of Phnom Penh, the ADB said in a statement.

Half the aid package would be a grant and the other half would be a loan, with the government putting $5 million into the projects, the ADB said.

"There will be funding for food distribution and food for work, and capacity-building for emergency response to the food crisis," Arjun Goswami, ADB's Cambodia director, told reporters Wednesday.

Poor families will be offered free rice and other food subsidies, while schoolchildren will receive food as well. The aid will also be used to foster employment through "food-for-work programs" as well as donations of seed and fertilizer.

"The project will prepare the system to respond to a food crisis," said Vong Sandap, secretary-general of the Ministry of Economy and Finance and director of Cambodia's emergency food assistance project.

A typical Cambodian household spends 60 percent of its income on food, the ADB said, adding that many impoverished families "are selling their household assets and taking out high interest loans in order to purchase food, fueling a downward spiral of poverty."