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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rains arrive, but situation 'still serious'

Rains arrive, but situation 'still serious'

The government has warned the country's drought situation is still serious even though

the rains have arrived in some provinces. A senior official at the Ministry of Agriculture,

Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) said drought still prevailed in Svay Rieng, Kampong

Speu, Takeo and Prey Veng provinces.

"If there are still no rains in the third and fourth weeks of August in these

provinces, this will have a serious effect on food security next year," Kith

Seng of MAFF's planning department warned in a letter to Minister Chan Sarun on August

15. "The farmland in these four provinces makes up 33 percent of the country's

total."

The deputy director of the National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM), Nhim

Vanda, agreed that the drought continued in several provinces, although conditions

had improved in others.

"Seedlings are surviving in some provinces, but the drought is still serious

in Kampong Speu and Takeo. If they get no rain, they will face a food shortage."

Vanda said the NCDM had exhausted its rice stocks, and would need more supplies after

distributing more than 1,500 tons of rice and hundreds of thousands of liters of

fuel for water pumps.

MAFF figures show that rice sowing now stands at 32 percent, up from 24 percent two

weeks ago.

Another planning department official said drought had destroyed 10,000 tons of rice

seed. MAFF has distributed more than 2,600 tons of rice seed to farmers.

The NCDM held a meeting on August 2 to evaluate the situation and seek solutions.

During the meeting, Chan Tong Yves, secretary of state at MAFF, said farmers would

need more 5,000 tons of rice seed. Another meeting will be held on August 20 with

government departments and NGOs to assess conditions.

The lack of rain has caused hundreds of farmers to seek food in Phnom Penh. Recent

arrivals were from Kandal, Kampot and Kampong Cham provinces, and were at the headquarters

of the Sam Rainsy Party to receive rice donated by the Royal Palace.

So Thoeun, 26, came with her husband and two children, one of whom was severely malnourished.

A nurse at Kantha Bopha I Hospital told the Post the two-year-old was suffering from

malnutrition. Thoeun said the drought had killed all their rice seedlings.

"I have no more money to buy rice," said Thoeun. "The nurse told me

to feed him delicious food, but I don't know how I can find the money. I have run

out everything. I don't have even a grain of rice at home."

After receiving 20 kilograms of rice at the SRP, she said she would have to ask her

husband to come to Phnom Penh and find work as a cyclo driver.

Chum Ren, 50, said her rice seedlings had also died. She came to beg rice from the

King to feed her six children as they had not had rain in three months.

"I decided to come here because we have no more food," she said. "In

previous years there was no drought, there were only floods."

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