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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Flood challenges still loom

Flood challenges still loom

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The floodwaters may have receded, but their effects are far from over, with the government, NGOs and international donors saying yesterday they are still assessing the damage as they shift to long-term rehabilitation.

Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post
A man wades through waist-deep floodwaters in Prek Takov commune, in Kandal province’s Khsach Kandal district, during nationwide flooding in October last year.

Last November, Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon said the government would spend about US$200 million to repair infrastructure – including schools, hospitals and roads – damaged by the worst floods in more than a decade, which directly affected 1.6 million people in 20 provinces.

National Committee for Disaster Management chief Keo Vy told the Post “relevant ministries and local authorities are still working on recovery step-by-step”.

Song Yen, director of the education ministry’s construction department, estimated it would cost more than $9 million to repair the 303 schools that were damaged and rebuild the 173 destroyed.

International donors and NGOs said they were still assessing the scope of the damage.

Peter Brimble, deputy country director of the Asian Development Bank, said the ADB had conducted an assessment of the damage last month for an emergency reconstruction project “in response to a high-level request from the government”. “The proposed scope of the project will be mainly on roads [national, provincial, rural], including bridges and culverts, and irrigation facilities,” he said, adding that the $55 million project would be submitted to the bank’s board of directors in late March.

A feasibility study is being drafted over the next month, for distribution of the 8 million euros ($10 million) pledged last week by Germany, said Simon Rowedder, an official with the embassy.

Save The Children country director Andrew Moore said the organisation is working with other NGOs to survey villagers on the effects of the flooding, with the results due next week.

World Vision senior program manger Leng Viraak said damaged village infrastructure, including wells, and irrigation and sanitation facilities, will be rebuilt with community participation through cash for work schemes in five provinces.

Save the Children and Caritas are introducing similar projects and said they were coordinating their work with provincial departments of rural development as well as commune and village authorities.

“People lost out on earning opportunities during the floods. This is a two-pronged approach – infrastructure is rebuilt, while giving them cash,” said Moore.

Other components of rebuilding efforts include providing emergency cash, giving seeds and assistance for replanting efforts, rebuilding houses and supporting villagers’ mental and emotional health.
The major challenge will be to build up people’s coping mechanisms, said Moore.

“People are extremely vulnerable. We have to prepare them to deal with the possibility of another shock,” he said.

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