Joint Appeal for Flood Recovery and Rehabilitation in Lao PDR
Heavy rainfall in and around the Mekong watershed caused the most severe floods in living memory in Lao PDR between 12 and 18 August. The Northern and Central regions of Laos were particularly severely affected, according to the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO), with flash floods reported which caused eleven deaths. Across the entire country, the NDMO estimates that a total of 204,189 people were affected in 866 villages of 53 districts across eleven provinces. Preliminary Government estimates indicate that a total of 74,989 hectares of agricultural land was inundated during the peak of the floods. Nearly 50,000 hectares out of the total inundated area have suffered damages. Thousands of households have lost their assets, livelihoods and, in some cases, their dwellings.
A Rapid Impact and Needs Assessment that was conducted under the leadership of the NDMO with support from partners in the Inter Agency Standing Committee on Natural Disaster Response Preparedness (IASC), provides feedback on the impact of and needs arising from the disaster, building upon available data. The exact magnitude of the damage will be quantified by a follow-up in-depth assessment planned as part of the early recovery initiative.
The Rapid Assessment found that damage and contamination of water systems and wells have caused an acute shortage of safe drinking water in affected areas. Water must be supplied while efforts are made to repair water sources. Ensuring adequate access to sanitation and hygiene will prevent outbreaks of water-borne diseases. Support must also be provided to ensure access to primary health, especially to essential medicines and other health and nutrition services, for the most vulnerable, in particular mothers and children. In addition, disease surveillance and reporting systems need to be reinforced in order to detect outbreaks and control vector borne and vaccine preventable diseases, and access to life-saving information and communication materials enhanced for affected populations.
While relief operations are necessary to stave off hunger during the immediate aftermath of the floods, rehabilitation of livelihoods and enabling households to resume their productive activities are of paramount importance to ensure food security and avoid destitution. The recent global surge in food prices, which also affects Laos, had already strained household coping strategies, and access to food by many households has been limited. The loss of crops, livestock and other sources of livelihoods due to the August flood is likely to further compromise household food security in Laos. Damage to crops, fishponds, food stocks and livestock has a negative impact on medium- to long-term food security. Urgent measures must be taken now to prevent already existing malnutrition from worsening. Furthermore, as most of the population relies on farming for food and for their livelihoods, early recovery actions should begin now to help affected communities restore livelihoods and regain normal living conditions.
In addition, there has been widespread damage to infrastructure such as irrigation systems, bridges, roads and footpaths, hampering the agricultural productive capacity of affected communities as well as their access to services and markets. Education and health infrastructure was also affected by the flood, adversely impacting people's access to services. People in areas that were hit by the flood, and in particular children and women, are highly vulnerable to different levels of exploitation, given the breakdown in family and community based safety and protection nets.
In sum, the floods in August 2008 have significantly impacted the lives of affected communities and compromised their main source of livelihoods. The agricultural sector, including crops, aquaculture, livestock and agro-forestry, has been impacted negatively. In addition, damages to health, nutrition, housing and sanitation have also been severe. If not addressed immediately, the impact of the floods may pose serious immediate and medium- to long-term threats to the health, food security, welfare and livelihoods of the affected population, especially the resource-poor and vulnerable households. Poor families will be impoverished further due to the loss of rice paddy, food stocks and other assets. Care-givers struggling to feed their children, many of whom are already malnourished, will find the task even harder. Health services that could barely ensure minimal care to the community's needs before the emergency now face having to deal with a range of disease outbreaks triggered by the floods, especially if food and clean water supplies are not made available as a matter of urgency. The damage to roads and other infrastructure has further marginalised isolated and poor communities. The personal, social and economic consequences of this year's floods have dealt a severe blow not only to the affected people, but also the overall resilience and coping strategy of Lao communities.
This Joint Appeal proposes 15 projects in eight sectors, submitted by United Nations agencies in partnership with the Government of Lao PDR and other development partners. The Appeal requests a total amount of US$ 9,945,998, to provide immediate resources to support the Government in addressing key humanitarian and essential early recovery needs of the affected population over the next twelve months. The United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has already provided US$ 2,024,378 as a jump start for immediate activities in priority sectors including Health and Nutrition, Water and Sanitation, Food Security and Agriculture, Protection, and Education. These initiatives need further support as presented in this Joint Appeal. The Appeal will be reviewed and revised following an in-depth medium to longer-term needs assessment quantifying damage and loss. The United Nations seeks the urgent support of the international donor community for this Joint Appeal in this time of crisis and recovery for Laos. The humanitarian impact of this disaster must be urgently addressed. The Joint Appeal will ensure that the response is effectively coordinated amongst humanitarian partners and the Government, and that the most affected and vulnerable receive the assistance and protection they need to restore their lives.