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Relief effort falls short in worst-hit province

Relief effort falls short in worst-hit province

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A Cambodian Red Cross worker stands next to 30 tonnes of donated rice for flood victims in Kampong Thom province yesterday.

Kampong Thom province
In a province where there are few paved roads besides the highway that cuts through it, efforts to get aid to those affected by the worst flooding to hit the Kingdom in more than a decade continue to be hampered by high-water levels and perilous dirt roads, many of which run along sinking riverbanks.

“We have to be careful where we send our field staff to deliver aid,” Oxfam’s Kampong Thom program manager Sau Sisamuth said yesterday. “Many of the roads are [still] flooded and quite dangerous. Sometimes we can only get there by boat.”

Chea Vanny, provincial program manager for relief agency Caritas, said that even the aid getting through was insufficient. “The amount of suffering they face is hugely different [from what they receive],” she said.

Im Sareoun, director of the provincial committee for disaster management, estimated that almost half of all families affected by the flooding were still waiting to receive aid.

According to the Cambodian Red Cross about 15,000 families in the province had received help and 10,000 were still waiting.

To ensure aid reaches those it is intended for, Im Sareoun said his agency was delivering it through its staff. “We don’t send the aid to, or keep the aid with, commune or village officials because we are afraid the aid won’t reach the victims,” he said.

Meanwhile, relief from foreign governments has begun to trickle in.

On Monday, Singapore pledged US$100,000 for Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. Yesterday, the United States pledged $50,000 for Kampong Cham province. Late Monday night, an unconfirmed report from Chinese news agency Xinhua said Beijing had pledged $7.87 million for Cambodia.  The Asian Development Bank also said that Cambodia might be eligible to apply to its Asia Pacific Disaster Response Fund. The fund disburses grants of up to $3 million.

The government, however, has continued to resist pleas from relief agencies that it call for international assistance. Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said yesterday that the situation was “under control” and that the government could “handle it”.  It was “too early” to request foreign assistance, but once the floods had passed and the total damage had been assessed, the government would make an informed appeal for help, he said.

Relief workers in Kampong Thom said the need there would be long lasting. The farmers who have borne the brunt of the floods also lost this year’s rice crop, Caritas’ Chea Vanny explained.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KRISTIN LYNCH

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