Disaster Management Reference Handbook - Cambodia (2017)

Executive Summary

The Kingdom of Cambodia (Cambodia) has a relatively high exposure to natural disasters and is expected to be one of the countries most affected by climate change. Droughts, floods, and typhoons have devastated crops and caused the loss of life. Typhoons and tropical storms in the Pacific can lead to a heavy flood season in Cambodia. In the wet season, water from the Mekong River causes flooding.

In 2011, Cambodia experienced one of its worst flood seasons on the lower Mekong River since 2000 affecting 18 of the 24 Cambodian provinces and affecting 1 million people. More recently, during the 2015-16 El Nino event, three-fourths of the paddy rice area experienced a loss in yield due to drought. In Cambodia, the occurrence of major disasters is a key factor that prompted the development and strengthening of legal frameworks for preparedness, response and recovery from disasters. Local, international and regional organizations are playing the key role in implementing disaster risk reduction projects in Cambodia. This has resulted in improved coordination between the National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM) and local NGOs to be able to facilitate more effective preparedness and response operations as well as strengthen a local NGO network called the Cambodian Humanitarian Forum (CHF). Cambodia drafted and adopted the National Action Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction 2014-2018 in 2014. This plan finalized the required policies and legal processes to strengthen DRM in Cambodia. It also focused on capacity building at national and sub-national levels and provided dedicated resources for strengthening the NCDM and the Sub-National Committees for Disaster Management. Cambodia’s legislature then passed the Law on Disaster Management in June 2015.

This legal framework for disaster management assigns legally binding roles and responsibilities, establishes institutions, and assists with the allocation of resources and coordination. NCDM is Cambodia’s lead government agency for emergency preparedness and relief. The NCDM provides the overall leadership of the Plan of Action for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) coordination in Cambodia. Cambodia has adopted the Cambodia Red Cross (CRC) as the primary partner for relief operations. In recent years, Cambodia has been improving the Early Warning System (EWS).

To date, they have over 50,000 registered users receiving alerts during floods and other natural hazards. The Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology (MOWRAM), with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have played an important role in improving EWS. According to the Royal Government of Cambodia, disaster management is a key component of its social and economic planning.

Natural disasters have increased poverty in Cambodia, which makes effective disaster management an important contribution to poverty reduction. The vulnerability of people living in rural areas is very high and may continue to rise, requiring improved preparedness and planning. The majority of the poor (90 percent) live in rural areas. In 2016, Cambodia’s rural population was approximately 79 percent. The majority of Cambodians are farmers, and their livelihoods mainly depend on agriculture. One third of Cambodia’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2015 relied on agriculture. Health and education remain challenges for Cambodia and have become development priorities. One third of all children under five are stunted. However, maternal health, early childhood development, and primary education programs in rural areas have improved in recent years. Cambodia’s economic growth is becoming stronger and poverty rates are continuing to fall. After two decades of strong economic growth, Cambodia has received the lower middle-income status, as of 2015. The country has a high prevalence of communicable disease due to limited access to safe drinking water and sanitary facilities. This causes waterborne diseases, such as diarrhea, dysentery and cholera. A large percentage of the population do not have access to piped water and more than half do not have access to improved sanitation.

However, the Ministry of Health (MOH) is working towards increased prevention of communicable diseases through the dissemination of educational materials via local television, and disease surveillance and control activities. Cambodia also faces widespread respiratory diseases due to the utilization of biomass fuels for cooking in rural areas, increased pollution from vehicles, and fossil fuels used in urban areas. The Government of Cambodia has introduced reforms and improved the healthcare system. Despite the improvement, healthcare coverage for all Cambodians continues to be a challenge.