Cambodia

Cambodia: 1 million at risk due to drought and floods

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by Kith Veasna - Communications
Eighteen people have died and at least 1.2 million people have been affected by drought and flood this year. An estimated 30,000 people have moved into the city for food and work to survive.

The Cambodian Prime Minister has made an appeal to NGOs the UN and others to provide food, rice seeds, medicines and other materials.

Drought and flood affected provinces include Battambang, Kompong Thom, Kompong Speu, Kandal, Takeo and Kompong Chhnang. It is reported that some villages benefiting from irrigation are still growing crops in Kompong Thom. In 4 World Vision ADPs in Kompong Speu, 50 per cent of crops are damaged. People in Kompong Chhnang have requested that World Vision improve water resources such as water pumps, dikes and sacks to make small dams. In World Vision's projects, people have reduced their food intake and are surviving on bor bor (rice porridge). There are few vegetables left to eat.

"If you walk through the villages now people say they need rice to eat, and rice seed to plant," says Min Sor, Kandal and Takeo Operation Manager.

Kompong Speu, Takeo, Kandal and Prey Veng provinces have been the worst-hit by this year's drought. Of the two million hectares of arable land in the country, only 50,000 hectares have received enough water to cultivate rice and other staples, Disaster Management Vice-President, Nhim Vanda reports.

The statistics from Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) have warned that a lack of seasonal rains in many provinces could lead to severe food shortages for more than 1 million people, and that figure could increase. MAFF's Agronomy department produced figures on July 26 showing that rice planting nationwide is running at only 24 per cent of the average.

Experts have attributed the drought to the ongoing problem of El Nino, a naturally occurring warming of the earth's oceans that has disrupted global weather patterns for the better part of a decade.

Even as the country struggles to account for its worst drought in years, six provinces along the Mekong River have been deluged with floods, destroying rice crops and killing at least 18 people." A total of 94,950 families have been taken to higher ground," said Nhim Vanda, vice-president of the National Committee on Disaster Management.

In response to worsening conditions on the land, farmers have flocked to the cities looking for work and food.

Thousands of migrants have come from drought-stricken provinces yet once in Phnom Penh they are often forced through circumstances to live in squatter villagers and sometimes work in the sex industry.

World Vision Cambodia's ADPs have used some of their funds to assist communities mitigate the effects of the drought through reconstruction of water dikes and canals and distribution of short maturing rice for rice banks. World Food Program's Food for Work resources is likewise being accessed at the district level.

In Battambang District, more than 4,000 poor and vulnerable families totalling 25,182; 12,896 of whom are women, are benefiting from a distribution of 38.9 MT of rice seeds, 12 MT of white rice for food-for work , 2 MT of white rice for relief to the poorest families and 3 water pumps with 550 liters of diesel fuel. In Banan district, food for work is being made available in 2 communes for the construction of 4 community ponds, one canal 1.2 km long and a road 1.3 km long. In Kompong Leng District , Kp Chhnang province, the same things are happening.