MORE than two million Cambodians have been affected by the most severe flooding
in the country for 30 years, 173 people have been killed and damage to crops and
infrastructure is estimated at $50 million - but many relief efforts have
stopped for the holidays.
A scene that evokes the spirit of Pchum Ben amid Cambodia's worst floods for decades.
Dr Nguon Sakhon, Second Deputy Secretary
General of Cambodian Red Cross (CRC), said emergency relief assistance has
reached nearly 200,000 victims, but the CRC will suspend relief efforts during
the Pchum Ben holiday.
Sakhon said although the CRC has money to buy rice
for the relief program, they are reluctant to make large purchases all at once
for fear they will drive the price up.
Outbreaks of dysentry and cholera,
as well as malaria, dengue fever, and respiratory diseases can be expected, said
For villagers running out of food, the need for a holiday and
concerns about price hikes for rice are unlikely to be met with much
Other relief organizations were similarly shut down through
Pchum Ben. The Post visited offices of a number of foreign and local aid
organizations, but staff on duty at most of them said that the offices would be
closed and the staff on holiday till Monday. The International Federation of Red
Cross and Red Crescent societies was the exception: a guard said a foreigner
would be working during the holidays but all the Cambodian staff were
United Nations organizations - the World Food Program and the Food
and Agricultural Organization - were both closed. Christian NGO World Vision ,
which had been involved in earlier relief efforts had closed its office by Press
Staff at the gate said eveyone was away for the holidays and would
not be back till Monday.
This year's flooding was brought about by
monsoons, which brought twice the average seasonal rainfall to the
Though flood waters are receding slightly, there are at least six
weeks of the rainy season remaining and indications that rain in China could
push up the level of Mekong again.
Taing Nath, the official in charge of
emergency coordination, sanitation and rehabilitation at the National Committee
on Disaster Management (NCDM), said most of the people who had died so far were
victims of drowning or snake bites.
Nath thold the Post that damage to
crops and infrastructure could reach $50 million, but the real extent of the
destruction cannot be assessed till waters recede.
He said 156,500
hectares of rice have been destroyed already and another 291,000 hectares are
threatened if flood waters rise again.
Nath said because of shortages of
money and supplies, only those flood victims in the most serious conditions are
able to receive emergency aid.
The number of villagers suffering from
flood-related disease is still unknown, said Nath, but reports say malaria and
gastro-intestinal diseases are on a dramatic rise.
Even close to Phnom
Penh, the center of the relief efforts, people were reporting hardship.
Villagers in Kandal Province's Somlong commune said they were grateful for rice
donated by World Vision (WV) which had been brought in by
Villagers said their food supply was getting dangerously low and
they expect this next year to be a struggle.
Muy Mon, a 50-year-old
farmer from the commune, told the Post that this year's flooding is the worst he
"The flooding is not only difficult for me, but was also
for my buffaloes and cows. Both the people and our animals don't have food and
medicine. When the flood drops down we are very worried that we won't have rice
seeds and the animals will die of disease," said Mon.
Dr Ravi Jayakaram,
Senior Operations Manager for WV, said they have so far distributed rice to some
10,000 of the most badly affected villagers in the provinces where they operate.
WV is just one of many agencies participating in the relief effort. The
agencies are working in close cooperation with the CRC and the NCDM so work is
not duplicatred and villages in need are not overlooked.
a 15kg to 25kg bag of rice should be enough to see most of the affected families
through till mid October when they plan a second rice delivery.
water levels are going down, Jayakaram said satellite photos show rain in
southern China which could result in more flooding in Cambodia.
said WV is preparing to make quick-growing varieties of rice available to
farmers when the water levels recede. The hope is that moisture levels will
remain high enough in the soil to allow these crops to mature, and a harvest to
be brought in, during the early months of the dry season.