By Sally Bolton in Phnom Penh
Severe flooding in Cambodia has damaged infrastructure, property, rice paddies, crops and livelihoods, and caused deaths across the country. 17 of Cambodia’s 24 provinces have been affected by the floodwaters that began to rise in August. In response, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has released 308,000 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to support the Cambodian Red Cross in its relief efforts. The organization aims to reach 5,055 families with food and emergency shelter supplies, and provide 10,000 families with clean drinking water and information about basic but life saving sanitation practices.
The National Committee on Disaster Management (NCDM) reports that 280,000 families have been affected, with 34,000 families evacuated to higher ground. More than 205,000 houses have been damaged and 653 houses destroyed. At least 207 people have been killed.
Cambodian Red Cross has been responding since the floods were first reported. So far, volunteers and staff have provided more than 112,000 people with emergency assistance. But the needs remain high, with families struggling to access food and drinking water, and concerns growing about the lack of access to basic sanitation.
In Kompong Thom, one of the worst-affected provinces, the Cambodian Red Cross team has been working in challenging conditions to deliver emergency assistance. Flooded roads have made it difficult to reach some of the districts, and activities have been relocated to villages where relief aid can safely be distributed.
Dr Uy Sam Arth, director of the disaster management department at Cambodian Red Cross, commended the branch team, who worked around the clock in heavy rain to distribute relief packages to more than 800 families from Kompong Thom’s Sandan district.
The relief assistance package includes a sack of rice, a box of noodles, a box of fresh water, 10 cans of fish, a mosquito net and a sarong. Dr Uy Sam Arth said that although the relief aid is modest, it can relieve the immediate vulnerabilities of affected people.
In Banteay Meanchey province, Y Long, Honorable President of Cambodian Red Cross Mongkul Borey sub-branch, shared the story of one family devastated by the flooding.
On 28 September Sar Saleun, age 30, and her husband Pnok Saly, age 31, took their boat to see their flooded rice paddy. Afraid to leave theit three children in their flooded home, they took them along.
When they reached the flooded rice paddy their small boat capsized. As the boat was sinking, the father was able to save his two-year-old son. Although nearby villagers tried to help, unfortunately his wife and two daughters, aged six and nine, could not be rescued.
While the humanitarian response is continuing, Cambodian Red Cross is also working together with agencies, local authorities and the international community to identify and begin to support the longer-term recovery needs of communities.