In September 2011, above average rainfall resulted in severe flooding along the Mekong and Tonle Sap river basins, affecting 18 of Cambodia’s 24 provinces.
The floods were reportedly the worst Cambodia had experienced in more than a decade.
As immediate relief efforts by government agencies, the Cambodian Red Cross, and development partners gradually gave way to longer-term recovery considerations, it was agreed that an expanded investigation into the floods’ effects on food security and nutrition, health, water and sanitation, household assets and economic situation was needed to better identify the most appropriate emergency preparedness and recovery phase response options.
A two-stage cluster survey was conducted from January 10–29, 2012 and collected representative data for areas within 250 meters of the peak-flood boundary in the Plains and Tonle Sap ecological zones. In total, information was collected on 2,397 households and 1,282 children aged 0-59 months from 164 villages in these areas considered most affected by the floods.
An estimated 64,000 households living within 250 meters of the peak-flood boundary were displaced from their homes for at least one night as a result of the floods; this includes some 19,600 households that were displaced outside of their home communities.
Survey findings show that the floods disproportionately displaced the poorest households: nearly 20 percent of the poorest households living in these areas were forced from their homes compared to just one percent of the richest households. Between 5–10 percent of households living in these areas experienced damage to their housing (flooring, walls, and roofing) as a result of the floods. At the time of the survey, most households reported having access to their usual water and sanitation sources.
Just less than 10 percent of households had a member migrate out since the floods, though more than half of these reported that the main reason was due to the flood. Migration from households was most prevalent among the poorest households, and those considered most affected by the floods; the findings suggest that these migrations were driven in large part by household economic pressures.
The most common household assets destroyed by the floods in these areas were fishing nets (33 percent), boats (21 percent), and bicycles (19 percent).
Households relying on fishing for their livelihoods appeared particularly affected by the floods, as were those dependent upon agricultural and non-agricultural wage labour: more than two-thirds of these households reported that their income had decreased since the floods. The economic hardships currently facing these households are further exemplified by the finding that, among the poorest and most affected households with children aged 5–14 years, between 8–15 percent reported that their children had done work for someone else or for the family business in the week prior to the survey.
The floods’ impact on agriculture in the areas of the Plains and Tonle Sap considered most affected was extensive. There is some evidence that households in these areas were less likely to plant wet season rice compared to households in the rest of the ecological zones due to historical weather and environmental conditions. However, of the households growing 2011 wet season rice, 90 percent reported that their crop had been damaged in some way; for 30 percent of households, the damage was so complete that they were not able to harvest any rice. The average yield for households who did manage to harvest 2011 wet season rice was 1,100 kg/ha—less than half the average yield reported for these zones in 2010.