The Mekong region – consisting of Vietnam, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), and Cambodia - is frequently affected by natural disasters, especially floods, droughts and typhoons. With the vast majority of the population in the three countries largely relying on agriculture, people’s livelihoods are often damaged by recurrent hazards, coupled with irregular seasonal patterns caused by climate change. Deforestation, erosion of riverbanks and improper land use are additional man-made factors augmenting the impact of these events.
What are the needs?
In Cambodia, 90% of the country’s poor live in rural areas, where the seasonal monsoon rains and the resulting floods can cause widespread destruction. In neighbouring Lao PDR, vulnerability to natural hazards has increased as a result of illegal logging and deforestation. Disasters take place against the background of widespread poverty, especially in rural and inaccessible mountain areas. Most recently, in August 2016, a series of torrential downpours triggered floods in many parts of the country. The floods affected almost 20 000 people, damaged houses and left huge swathes of agricultural lands inundated.
With its long coastline, cyclones and tropical storms are a regular occurence in Vietnam. While local capacity to withstand and respond to natural disasters has been substantially enhanced in the last decade, additional support is sometimes required when large-scale disasters strike.
Storms, droughts and landslides often leave local communities in need of help as they destroy their homes and livelihoods. Outbreaks of tropical diseases such as dengue and malaria put an additional strain on local health services. Access to the affected populations can sometimes represent an additional challenge in remote areas with inadequate and damaged infrastructure.