I would appreciate your publishing this letter regarding the article titled ‘Less aid available’ for disasters in yesterday’s edition of the Phnom Penh Post.
Actually, I have not stated what is in the front page [teaser] box – “Govt’s response to drought meagre: WFP” – nor what is in the initial paragraph of the article on page 5: “The head of WFP in Cambodia has labelled the government’s drought preparation and response insufficient . . .
What I did mention during the phone interview is that the Cambodian Government has responded to the drinking water scarcity by trucking water and making it available to people in the affected provinces during the last full month.
Also the Cambodia Red Cross has contributed to this effort along with the interventions carried out by NGOs and UN agencies which participate in the Humanitarian Response Forum; these activities are continuing to date in the provinces.
I also reported that the Ministry of Education did take early and effective steps in liaison with WFP and UNICEF so as to make drinking water available in affected schools.
The adequacy of this immediate response, at all levels, is also proved by the fact that no deaths/casualties have been reported by the government due to drought.
When it comes to the larger preparation, and actions, in terms of water assets and water catchment/retention infrastructure, this is a different matter from the immediate response to water scarcity and one that requires additional attention and planning: reportedly, all countries in the region that have been hit hard by the drought, a new phenomenon after decades of mostly floods and typhoons, will certainly have to invest more in the future for making available potable drinking water at all times to the populations as well as for irrigation systems for sustainable agricultural production and livestock.
Country director for UNWFP
Editor’s note: The reference in the article’s lead paragraph to the government’s drought response was based on a direct quote later in the story in which Mr Bordignon said “What has been done is sufficient? No.”