ACT's coordinated response to floods
Typhoons have caused severe flooding in Cambodia. The Mekong and other major rivers have overflowed over a vast area, causing flooding damage across 16 of the 24 provinces. The capital Phnom Penh and surrounding areas has also been affected.
According to the Humanitarian Response Forum (HRF), more than 1,700,000 people have been affected by the flooding and approximately 119,000 were displaced. According to the HRF report 134 deaths have been caused by the flooding, mostly by drowning.
Extremely poor families are the worst-affected, many of whom are landless migrant labourers, people suffering illness, the elderly and orphaned children. Poor farmers will be badly affected in the coming months as standing crops and agricultural land have been damaged.
According to the HRF report, a total of 244,000 hectares of rice crop have been inundated.
The ACT Forum Cambodia has decided to focus on early recovery rather than relief operations, as these are already being carried out by other groups. The forum will work to advocate with the government to fulfil its responsibility towards the people.
ACT Alliance members Church World Service (CWS), Life with Dignity (LWD), DanChurch Aid (DCA) and Christian Aid (CA) will implement the ACT appeal along with their local partners. The requested appeal budget of just over $1m is still an estimate, as the forum is studying needs assessments closely.
DanChurchAid is part of the coordinated response to the emergency by the ACT Alliance Forum in Cambodia. Kristen Rasmussen, DanChurchAid Field Director in Cambodia, gives us an insight to what is happening on the ground
ACT: What have field staff seen in the communities where you work?
KR: Our staff who made assessments witnessed flash flooding and the flood waters were still rising at the time. Some families were displaced and were receiving immediate food and water, hygiene and sanitation (WASH) support from the Cambodian Red Cross, Caritas, and World Vision. Many farmers will lose their rice harvest this year.
ACT: What are the most serious problems people are facing because of the emergency?
KR: Access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene are critical. Secondary needs are food, though many poor families are coping with this by borrowing rice from rice banks or from wealthier relatives. There will be a long-term need for support to livelihoods, which is why as part of the appeal we intend to give unconditional cash grants to families affected by flooding.
ACT: what approach are you taking to the emergency response?
KR: An important new development during this year’s flooding is the coordination of assessment between government officials and NGOs. We feel that it is very important to conduct assessments in coordination with the government, to support government in their role as duty-bearer. In doing this, we help to ensure that duty bearers fulfil their responsibility to be the first responder and don’t rely on NGOs to act as a substitute, which is a common challenge here in Cambodia where there has been a trend of depending on NGOs to do the work that government should be doing.
ACT: what needs have you identified on the ground?
KR: Needs identified by families range from seeds and fertiliser purchase for the next growing season to loan repayments. Agricultural inputs are particularly critical for farmers who have lost their crops. It is important to understand that Cambodians are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, such as flooding. This is because of their low adaptive capacity, but also because millions of rural farmers are living on the brink of poverty, often because they have borrowed money to purchase agricultural inputs for each agricultural season.
The overwhelming majority of farmers, approximately 70%, are only able to harvest one rice crop per year, leaving them extremely vulnerable to external shocks such as crop loss due to climate hazards. This is why it will be important for families to have access to cash so that they can recover their livelihoods.
ACT: tell us how unconditional cash grants help people affected by the floods?
KR: ACT Alliance member DCA/CA (Dan Church Aid/Christian Aid Joint Programme) has experience with unconditional cash grants (UCGs) in Cambodia and has had success in implementing this response together with local partners. We believe that UCGs are an appropriate intervention as they have the flexibility to enable families to address their individual livelihood recovery needs.
Since the majority of farmers in Cambodia only harvest one crop per year, they will not be able to replant until May or June of next year. It is extremely challenging for poor famers to survive the loss of a crop – it will push most of them into extreme poverty.
ACT: Why are ACT organisations coordinating on this emergency response?
KR: The coordination of ACT organisations for this emergency response gives us ‘strength in numbers’ and ensures that we do not overlap or provide an inappropriate response. Together we are much stronger than any of us are on our own – and we are able to raise funds much more effectively if we are united. ACT organisations have a common foundation and united vision which strengthens our response together.