Weather patterns keep changing unexpectedly. There is little rain during the rainy season, or it is extremely hot in the dry season. The extreme heat can sometimes cause animals and people to die. The change in weather patterns could be a signal of climate change.
When there are notable changes in the climate, people start to pay attention to what might be happening. Over the last couple of years, non-government organisations (NGOs), which have been working with youth, on national policy and in the health sector have begun to work on environmental issues. Some international and local NGOs have started programs to raise awareness of climate change and work in disaster prevention.
For example, Plan International Cambodia is conducting a campaign raise awareness of climate change and global warming in rural communities here.
Khun Bunna, a disaster risk management project officer at Plan International explained that raising awareness was just the first step in their project. His organization decided to work with climate change issues after seeing the number of natural disasters in the last decade.
“We now have started working on disaster prevention in our target areas,” Bunna said. “In Siem Reap we worked in four different districts and other two districts in Kompong Cham province.”
The campaign started with slogan writing. After training, the villagers were more aware of the issues around climate change. Participants then wrote slogans on the theme of how climate change affects them.
“Villagers were not only required to write the slogan but also display them around their villages,” Sao Sithat, community development facilitator at Plan International in Dambae district of Kompong Cham province explained.
After the campaign, she said, villagers realized that climate change was caused by many different factors, but one main factor was deforestation. They also realised that climate change seriously affects their daily lives.
Caritas Cambodia has worked in the area of disaster prevention since 2007. It has trained its staff in order for them to go out into the community and train key people in the community. Now, they reach further into the community by training families.
“From our efforts in the community, people who live in sensitive areas know how to stay safe if they face a natural disaster,” Sok Sakhan, a disaster preparedness manager at Caritas said. People were trained to build a safe place in the community before and almost every single house has their own first aid kit.
“For instance, in Lvea Em district in Kandal province, where villagers face floods almost every year, they now have boats and a safe place at home.” Sakhan said.
“From my personal experience visiting some disaster-prone countries like India, they don’t have boats in each house like this. Thus, we are better than them in this type of prevention.”
According to the National Committee of Disaster Management (NCDM), the recent floods caused more than 200 deaths and put 445, 531 hectares of rice fields under water of which 126, 632 hectares were totally destroyed. In addition, schools closed and some sections of national road were destroyed. The damage is estimated to cost about US$100 million.
Horm Rithy, 19, a representative of Child Peer Educator group offered his personal perspective after attending an awareness campaign.
“I was so delighted for having such a great chance to be involved in this campaign. My team has initiated the idea of creating a photo book record that describes the consequences of climate change.” Rithy said, “I hope my fellow villagers, including children and young people will support and encourage our activities after seeing our photo book, which will soon be released.”