The Ministry of Health has instructed people to brace themselves for imminent floods after the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology forecast a full week of medium to heavy rainfall, which it attributed to climate change.
A Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology announcement on Tuesday said a low-pressure through was lingering in the north of the country and it would increasingly be coupled with the southwest monsoon.
The ministry said there would be moderate rainfall from Wednesday until next Tuesday, while some places could see heavier precipitation due to specific local conditions. It also predicted thunderstorms and high winds in some areas.
“This is the year of El Nino and Cambodia has been suffering from its effects. Its influence has diminished somewhat but please be informed and continue to exercise increased caution,” the announcement said.
The Ministry of Health instructed people to be prepared and respond in a timely manner when flooding could be imminent so that the impact on health and safety could be minimised.
The ministry said climate change had altered the pattern of the seasons and was causing frequent natural disasters, such as heatwaves, drought, thunderstorms and flooding.
In the ministry’s letter, Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng called on the public to prepare themselves for three stages – before, during and after flooding – and to closely monitor the situation.
The letter particularly warned people to take care of children and the elderly and to watch out for venomous animals such as snakes.
Bun Heng also instructed citizens to maintain high levels of hygiene by regularly washing their hands and food, and making sure there was adequate clean drinking water so as to avoid the various illnesses that can be caused by flooding.
“Before, during and after flooding, if you have any health problems, please immediately go for a check-up at a health centre nearby, or even the nearest hospital,” the letter said.
The Ministry of Health also instructed its subordinate officials throughout the country to be ready with medicine, equipment and serum as safeguards against venomous snakes.
It called on mobile units to help with consultations to ensure anyone with health problems receives treatment according to proper standards.
Tek Vannara, the executive director at NGO Forum on Cambodia, said it was wise for the ministries to inform the public on a regular basis about climate change so people can be properly prepared.
However, he wanted to see a longer-term prediction of climate change that would enable everyone to be better prepared – in addition to the current short-term forecasts.
“The National Committee for Disaster Management should be sprung into action, but it lacks resources."
“So, further strengthening of its capacity and techniques should be provided, especially ensuring that the national budget is available at the sub-national level, so they have the ability to respond to imminent disasters in local areas,” Vannara said.