About 800,000 child-ren have been affec-ted by the recent floods in Cambodia, the worst environmental disaster in this country in more than a decade.
The total number of people affected is 1.6 million, but children are the most vulnerable in emergencies as their families struggle to cope with the loss of houses, crops and livelihoods – and, in some cases, family members.
Flood-affected children and their families now face serious risks as hundreds of health centres are inaccessible and more than 1,000 schools are closed.
Every day a child is absent from school increases the risk of the child dropping out in the long term. Making matt-ers worse, when waters begin to recede, stagnant water, combined with poor sanitat-ion and hygiene, is likely to breed diseases to which children are vulnerable.
Increased poverty, and the loss of family income, may also force children to work to support their families, not only taking them out of school but also putting them at risk of exploitation and trafficking.
The damage from the floods to other crucial infrastructure is currently unknown. What we do know is that it will require significant time and resources for things to return to normal.
In the meantime, it is crucial to explore alternative and innovative approaches building on co-operation to address the needs and reduce the risks faced by children.
This can only be done effectively by continuing to build on the support and co-operation between non-government organisat-ions, the United Nations, the government and donors that we have seen so far. By working together, pooling our resources and jointly sharing crucial information we will be able to meet the challenges that lie ahead.
Thanks to this close co-operation, Save the Children has been able to distribute rice and other crucial items to 33,700 people in Kampong Cham and Prey Veng provinces. This has been possible thanks to the financial support of our members, USAid and rice donations from the UN World Food Program.
Additionally, Save the Children has established more than 300 (and counting) temporary schools in community buildings and other village houses, run by teachers who are unable to access their flooded or destroyed schools.
All this is the result of our partnership with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and its provincial counterparts, which has enabled more than 10,000 children to return to school.
By doing this, not only are we helping children’s educat-ion we are also restoring some sense of normality to their daily lives while helping parents focus on the recovery work ahead.
Recovery from a disaster of this magnitude will take time, and the effects will be felt long after the land has dried. Low-cost, innovative solut-ions can be a big help.
Save the Children looks forward to continue to strengthen its co-operation with the government, NGOs, the UN and the donor community to reduce the risks and improve the prospects for flood-affected children and their families. That is the only way forward.
Jasmine Whitbread is the CEO of Save the Children International.