Incheon, South Korea
OFFICIALS have touted a village-level information-sharing programme as an important step in mitigating damage caused by natural disasters, though it has yet to be implemented nationwide.
Speaking on the sidelines of a disaster preparedness conference in Incheon last week, Nhim Vanda, deputy director of the National Committee on Disaster Management, said the so-called “village-level task forces” would endow Cambodians with “the responsibility for implementing tasks in their own communities” when disasters were looming.
“The task force networks at the village level can spread the disaster-related information more quickly to the people in their own community,” he said, and added that they could make it easier for the NCDM and the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology to undertake preparedness and relief efforts.
NCDM Director General Ponn Narith said yesterday that each task force would consist of seven members, including village chiefs, officials from the Cambodian Red Cross, police, health officials and at least one “local businessman”.
He added that the government had first begun forming the task forces in July. “Our plan has been done in 12 provinces already, and we will continue to do all the provinces around Cambodia,” he said.
A United Nations report last week provided the first regional assessment of natural disasters and their effects.
Between 1980 and 2009, the report said, Cambodia recorded 30 natural disasters that resulted in 1,969 deaths and affected 16 million people. Damage from these disasters cost US$518 million.
The report also said that a greater portion of Cambodia’s population was vulnerable to flooding than that of any other country in the region, with 12.2 percent potentially exposed.
Last month’s flooding, which began on October 10, led to at least nine drowning deaths, six of which have been confirmed by the government.
Keo Vy, cabinet chief at the NCDM, said yesterday that a report on the recent flooding had not been finalised, but that officials have previously estimated that it was about half as devastating as Typhoon Ketsana in 2009, which left 43 dead and caused US$132 million in damage.
Tith Sam Oun, the chief of Sak Sampao commune in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district, said the village-level task forces had been effective in alerting villagers to threats posed by heavy rains and had allowed them to evacuate their homes on time. But she said there still was not a system in place to provide adequate food and supplies for affected families upon their return. “We have to prepare everything for the villagers,” she said.