The National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM) and its development partners have convened a meeting to organise disaster management plans for future calamities that they say will inevitably occur in Cambodia.

Lum Heng Huot, Vice President and Secretary General of the NCDM, said on February 21 that the annual meeting was held to prepare responses to both climate change-induced and man-made disasters, as well as to review the achievements made by the committee in 2021.

He expressed appreciation for the cooperation of development partners, saying that it has and will help reduce socioeconomic and environmental impacts caused by such events.

Huot said that Cambodia is a country at high risk of climate change-induced disasters, and well thought out strategies in agriculture, water resources, and rural development are required to adapt to such serious changes, which encompass drought, floods and storms.

He said the government has made significant efforts in its strategy and policy in recent years to minimise risk, adapt to climate change, and in sustainable development - but conceded that ithas yet to have plans in place to mitigate damage caused by major floods to infrastructure and related sectors.

Floods in Phnom Penh and 17 other provinces affected more than 49,000 families and caused 13 fatalities in 2021.

People wade through floodwaters in the capital’s Tuol Sangke commune last year. Heng Chivoan

In the same year, wind storms claimed the lives of 9 people and caused 76 to be injured. A total of 1,002 buildings were completely destroyed, while 7,249 were partially destroyed.

83 people were killed by lightning strikes and another 50 were injured. Lighting also killed 57 cattle.

Cambodia ranks as the 4th highest risk country in Asia and fifteenth worldwide according to the 2021 World Risk Report, making it among the world’s most at-risk countries when it comes to disasters.

Elizabeth Pearce, Country Director of Save the Children, said in the meeting that the Kingdom’s preparedness coordination meetings have been complex in the last two years due to the need to focus on multiple different issues simultaneously. She raised the example in 2020 of having to manage the Covid-19 crisis, while also responding in a timely fashion to the floods. Both disasters were responded to quickly and effectively, she pointed out.

Pearce also made several recommendations to increase disaster preparedness in the Kingdom, including prioritising coordinated planning, building community resilience as the core of interventions, and providing assistance to the vulnerable.

“In cases where risk turns into a humanitarian crisis, no matter how complex, we must honour humanitarian principles, with particular attention [paid] to those families and communities most in need and most vulnerable,” she said, adding that the coordination platform should be activated at least three times per year.