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'Vulnerable' seek aid in shadow of Angkor

'Vulnerable' seek aid in shadow of Angkor

In Siem Reap near the temples of Angkor Wat, where busloads of affluent tourists

arrive daily, the outlying villages continue to cope with poverty and scarcity of

food.

The villagers, many of whom are widows with children, plus many sick and elderly,

lack life's basic amenities and are being helped by the World Food Programme's (WFP)

"Vulnerable Group" project.

The WFP team of seven Khmer staff, led by British co-ordinator Trevor Martin, has

so far identified 12,000 people who need help in 11 of the 14 districts of Siem Reap

with a total population of around 600,000.

Three districts remain totally inaccessible because of security problems and only

half the villages throughout the province can be reached with safety.

So far, the team, with the help of the Cambodian Red Cross, has made three distributions

of 40-day rations, delivering 15-kilos of rice and half-a-kilo of oil per person

on each occasion.

Frequently escorted by armed guards, the convoys of up to eight trucks, each carrying

a maximum of eight tons of food, leave the warehouse in Pouk to negotiate roads with

continued risks of land-mines and banditry.

Villagers displaced by Khmer Rouge activity from Osmach, near the Thai border at

Samrong, are now being supplied with food, as are displaced people elsewhere, including

many at Phnom Boc in Banteay Srei, Siem Reap province.

The first deliveries contained sacks of rice donated by Japan and cans of vegetable

oil from the Netherlands.

Further along the road to Chikreng at Svay Chey, distribution is held at the local

pagoda, supplying 116 families of 353 people.

The children play while the women pack supplies onto ox-carts. Many have lost their

husbands through illness or mine accidents, and one asks for help for her baby with

a fever.

The hospital in Siem Reap is too far to travel, she says, because she has no transport.

Chorn is a 33-year-old widow with three children, whose husband died of malaria.

She has no money to buy food but has banana trees around her house.

"I don't know how many I have," she admitted, "but there are enough

for us to eat, and I have a papaya tree too."

She also has a few chickens, but no pigs or ducks, and supplements her rice provisions

with fish from the Tonle Sap.

Chandra Ti is also 33 but is bringing up seven children on her own.

"We all help each other," she told the Post. Her husband died of an unknown

illness, she said, and now she rents out their rice field, receiving some of the

crop as payment.

WFP has been working with various organizations in the repatriation of 370,000 people

from Thai border camps. Of these, 38,000 settled in Siem Reap province.

Food has been distributed for 400 days, in ten lots, but now that the number of returnees

is falling and there are hopes for greater stability, WFP is turning its attention

to development-related programs.

Director of Operations Scott Leiper, oversees a total of 98 local staff and 17 expatriates

in Cambodia.

Out of the $68 million 1992/93 budget donated by 15 countries, $33 million has been

spent on repatriation with the remainder earmarked for other projects.

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