Building resilience to worsening seasonal floods in Laos

Published: 3 February 2014 11:58 CET

By Kate Roux, IFRC

Each year, seasonal rains bring flooding to Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. It is not an unusual occurrence for communities in this part of the world. Yet in 2013, flooding in two southern provinces of Laos was far worse than has been experienced in past 30 years.

The Lao Red Cross, with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), French and Thai Red Cross, have been conducting a relief operation since October to assist 10,000 people with food, hygiene and non-food items. Malaria nets have been key in a region where dengue and malaria run rampant in communities.

“The flood destroyed my home, all our chickens… it is very hard for me as a widow,” says Mala Phounyoo, a 65-year old woman from Campasak Province. “Yet I know I am not invisible and I am so proud that people care about our suffering here in Lao. The rice given by the Red Cross helps me survive.”

Dr. Bountheung, head of the disaster management department, explains it is one of the first times that Lao Red Cross had needed to run an operation in this part of the country. “We typically have floods in the north and central parts of the country,” he says.  “And thanks to support from the IFRC and our sister National Societies, including the nearly 300,000CHF we received through DREF, we have been able to provide critical support needed.”

With a strong start into the new year, the Laos Red Cross continues their work so that the two provinces affected in 2013 will be more resilient when the seasonal rains arrive later this year.

Due to major changes in the climate, floods are becoming a more constant threat, and communities need to be equipped to recover as quickly as possible each year. The DREF operation has supported not only for rice seeds and immediate food assistance, but hygiene promotion, and repairing of schools, water and irrigation systems.

“Building community resilience is not just a trendy term that we use in Southeast Asia,” says Indira Kulenovic, from the IFRC South-East Asia regional office, who is overseeing the DREF operation. “We are working as a Red Cross family, in partnership with other stakeholders, to strengthen communities knowledge and skills, so they can prepare better and recover faster from the impacts of reoccurring floods and other shocks that disrupt their life on annual basis.”

The impact of the floods

Laos beneficiary profile - 1Kagg Promvihan is a 40-year old rice farmer from Champasak Province. During the 2013 floods, their rice farm was destroyed and they do not have enough money to start replanting. While there is work in the city, with 6 children and her parents to look after, he cannot leave the family behind. Support from the Lao Red Cross has “relieved our suffering at the most critical time, especially for the kids…they can sleep well at night”, she explains.






Laos beneficiary profile - 2 “I am proud, and thankful that we have the chance to receive help from the Red Cross,” states Wai Toummilad, a 30-year old mother in Champasak Province. “If Red Cross did not support us, nobody would have.” Wai has an 8-month old baby, with two children and her own mother at home. They are rice farming family and the flooding in 2013 left them with enormous debt. “It is a similar situation for everyone in this area,” she continues. “Yet with the support from Red Cross, we have the force to make it better again.”





Laos beneficiary profile - 3“The flood destroyed my home, all our chickens…it is very hard for me as a widow,” explains Mala Phounyoo, a 65-year old woman from Campasak Province. “Yet I know I am not invisible and I am so proud that people care about our suffering here in Lao. The rice given by the Red Cross helps me survive,” she says.