Floods have claimed 45 lives and forced over 11,500 families to leave their homes as of August 19, according to National Committee for Disaster Management vice president Nhim Vanda, who spoke yesterday at a conference in the Cambodiana Hotel dedicated to addressing the problem.
The floods have come early in Cambodia this year. They usually begin around mid-September, like last year, when 168 people were killed.
Vanda said that even though waters are currently receding across the country, it is possible the floods will come back at the end of September and in early October, with potentially devastating results.
“If there are storms and rain like there were in 2013, there will be a high risk of poverty and hardship, the prime minister told me,” Vanda said.
According to Caroline McCausland, country director for Action Aid, if floods come again, farmers affected by the current round could see their food security at risk.
“Many farmers can replant in mid-September, but if the floods come back, it will cause migration and an increased poverty cycle,” she said, adding that no one was certain whether the floods would return.
Claire Van der Vaeren, the UN’s resident coordinator in Cambodia, said this year’s weather has been unusual, with floods coming in early and water shortages affecting 10 provinces along with Phnom Penh.
“This year’s rainy season has the particularity of bringing both flooding and drought, making the role of the National Committee’s task force all the more critical,” Van der Vaeren said.
Some at the conference blamed climate change for the irregular weather and called for aid from richer, high-polluting countries.
“This is surely the impact of climate change. It’s [only] August,” said Cambodian Red Cross director of disaster management Uy Sam Ath.
“If a second flood comes again according to predictions, then it’s not over yet. So we are still in need of support to save people.”
Vanda agreed, saying that Cambodia needed funds to combat extreme weather caused by climate change.
“I don’t blame the powerful countries [for climate change] – if I did they wouldn’t give us assistance,” Vanda said.