Cambodia is one of the most disaster-prone countries in Asia, with floods and drought the primary natural hazards to affect the country. These have caused significant loss of life and substantial damages to infrastructure, agriculture and livelihoods. The frequent natural disasters have exacerbated the vulnerability of the mostly poor and rural population. In addition, issues with significant humanitarian impact, including climate change, landmines, environmental degradation, water and sanitation, health and other developmental issues, also affect Cambodia, severely obstructing development in a country seeking to rise out of years of internal conflict and instability.
The National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM) is Cambodia’s lead government authority for disaster management and response. The main responsibility of the NCDM is emergency preparedness and relief, and coordination with the various government ministries involved in disaster management and response. The NCDM also collaborates with the international humanitarian community for cooperation and support. The Cambodian Red Cross (CRC) has been officially adopted by the NCDM as the primary partner to conduct relief operations. The Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) also plays a significant role in disaster response and relief and has trained with foreign militaries, including the U.S. military, on improving coordination and response.
The support and guidance of various international humanitarian actors, including the United Nations (UN), Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), and international donors, has helped the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) formulate long-term plans and programs in an effort to strengthen disaster preparation and response in the country. Recent national plans address the need for disaster risk reduction, including the implementation of major international initiatives such as the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) into national plans.
The introduction and continuing development of national-level plans will greatly assist Cambodia in dealing with disasters. The RGC has indicated that it considers disaster management a national priority.
As such, the government is finalizing a much-needed national disaster management law. However, the government has noted that Cambodia lacks the necessary human resources and building capacity to increase disaster preparedness and is seeking more investment to increase capacity.
As part of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Cambodia is working with its neighbors to develop guidelines for response and is actively maintaining partnerships for regional and civil-military disaster relief cooperation. By participating in regional initiatives, Cambodia is hoping to lessen the impact of natural disasters within the country as well as the region.
Despite the challenges of frequent natural disasters and developmental issues, the country has steadily improved, with economic and human development indicators showing upward movement. Advancement in these areas will help the country be more resilient and less vulnerable towards natural and man-made disasters.
Currently, much of disaster management in Cambodia is focused at the community level on preparedness, disaster risk reduction and response preparation.
To strengthen community capability, strategies are being implemented by the NCDM, the UN, NGOs and donors to incorporate capacity building and training for local officials and communities.
Cambodia continues to strengthen its capacity to prepare and respond to disasters but will likely require continuing assistance from the international community for many years. It will take concerted efforts in coordination and cooperation with regional countries and other foreign nations, as well as support from the international humanitarian community, to help Cambodia prepare for, respond and minimize the effects of disasters.