Cambodia's worst floods in a decade

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When Tamul Leuk Village was hit by floods Ms. Hun Kea's house was severely damaged and she lost her most important source of income: fishing. With a decreased income and increasing rice prices she had no means to meet her family's daily needs for food.

In September 2011, Cambodia experienced its worst seasonal flooding for over a decade.

More than 1,700,000 people were affected, 50,000 families lost their homes, and almost 250 people died.

About 13 percent of Cambodia’s rice crop was flooded, of which more than half was destroyed.

As a consequence, many small scale farmers and agriculture day labourers lost their food security.

Furthermore, fishing opportunities were diminished due to heavy storms, leaving many families without any access to food.

Health issues arose as very few families had access to clean drinking water, and diarrhoea and other water borne diseases increased significantly.

A blessing and a curse

Ms. Hun Kea is a 63 years old widow who lives with her daughter and five grandchildren in the Tamul Leuk village, Kampong Chhnang, which is located near the Tonle Sap Lake.

The close proximity to the lake is both a blessing and a curse to the villagers. The lake provides food security and income for many people. However, the lake also has a negative impact on the villagers, when the water level rises in the rainy season and leads to floods and devastation in the surrounding villages.

In 2011, the floods lasted for a whole month, and the water level was much higher than it would normally be during a flood.

Farmers lost their crops, and fishermen lost their fishing opportunities due to heavy storms and big waves.

Lack of food and clean drinking water

Ms. Kea and her family do not have access to agricultural land. Instead, they own a boat with amall engine, which makes it possible for the family to live mainly from fishing in the Tonle Sap Lake.

During the 2011 floods, Ms. Kea’s house was severely damaged, and the few poultry they owned died.

Furthermore, heavy storms and big waves often made it impossible to fish. The fishing catch declined drastically and so did the family’s income.

In addition, the price of rice increased and Ms. Kea had no means to meet her family’s daily requirements for rice.

The access to clean drinking water was also very limited, and the family had to use the flood water, which was very dirty because people were also littering and defecating in the same waters.

The only means to sanitise the water was to boil it and this depended on the availability of firewood or fuel.

DCA’s response to the disaster

With funding from ECHO, DanChurchAid and partners provided emergency assistance to 22,266 extremely poor and vulnerable households, who had been severely impacted by the floods.

The focus was mainly on providing food rations, health packages, and health campaigns to prevent diseases.

Wells damaged by the floods were cleaned and repaired, and livelihoods of extremely vulnerable families were restored.

Households with access to land received seeds of short-term varieties of rice, and the remaining households received small cash grants (less than EUR 42) in order to start income generating activities, such as chicken breeding.

50 kilos of rice

Ms. Kea warmly welcomed the aid, which was distributed by DCA and partners.

She received 50 kg of milled rice, 1L of cooking oil, 1kg of salt as well as 500g of detergent soap, 1 kit of Orasel and 30 water purification tabs.

She feels happy and lucky to receive the donation, which enables her to provide food to her family for a month.

She does not feel jealous because other people received rice seeds in addition to the food, because she understands that rice seeds were only for those with access to land.

More floods are expected to come in the future

This project is funded by the European Union Local organisations point to the need to repair and improve the infrastructure, which was damaged by the floods, such as roads in rural areas, irrigation, and the prevention of future disasters.

“We expect new floods again this year, and disaster preparedness in the country remains weak.

Therefore, it is important to think about disaster prevention and preparedness in all relief activities” says Colas Chervier, DanChurchAid program coordinator in Cambodia.