As the worst flooding in a decade recedes in Cambodia, the work of obtaining food and clean water and the long-term rebuilding of livelihoods is underway with assistance from Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).
During September and October, heavy monsoon rains in Cambodia caused the deaths of more than 240 people and displaced as many as 32,000. Flooding also caused extensive damage in the neighboring countries of Thailand and Vietnam.
In Cambodia, rice fields in several entire provinces were destroyed after being underwater for more than four weeks. The loss of the crop not only affects the farmers, but also the people who work in the fields and sell produce at roadside stands. Grazing areas for animals have been washed away, forcing people to spend money they don’t have to feed animals.
Some people in Prey Veng province, one of the poorest, most-populated and hardest-hit areas in the country, are being forced to sell off their assets and use what little saving they have to buy food, clean water and medicine and to pay school fees.
MCC is responding to targeted areas of need in Prey Veng with $30,000 for rice distribution, clean drinking water, school repairs and education.
“It is a quiet, slow-moving disaster now. It will hit the poor hard, and it will take most people years to rebuild,” says Michael Bade, a Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) worker in Cambodia. He and his spouse, Lisa Bade, are from Seattle, Wash. “Fruit trees are dead, houses are damaged, irrigation canals and ponds collapsed – infrastructure that took a decade to build up after the last big flood will have to be repaired and replaced in many areas.”
In partnership with Angkearhdei Primary School, where MCC has a Global Family education sponsorship program, MCC is making structural and furniture repairs to the school damaged by flood waters that rose halfway up the first floor of the two-story building. In addition, MCC is providing daily breakfast and clean water at the school to keep students attending. An additional stipend is being paid to teachers so they will make up four to six weeks of class time lost to the flooding.
In early December, Red Cross Cambodia distributed 261 water filters, purchased by MCC, to families whose land is still surrounded by flood waters. The problem is acute because the same water used as a latrine, is used for washing and drinking, Michael Bade says.
Dirty water, sick animals used for food and other unhealthy eating conditions are causing health issues in other parts of Prey Veng too, so MCC’s response includes cleaning wells, distributing hygiene kits and training teachers at Angkearhdei about hygiene and sanitation practices.
Through local partner Love Cambodia, MCC will deliver two-week supplies of rice to more than 800 hard-hit families in Prey Veng Province. The province was 90 percent covered by flooding for over 30 days and some districts lost between 70 and 94 percent of their rice crop. Bade says the crop loss is especially problematic for day laborers who typically make enough to eat that day and yet have been without work for more than 45 days now.
To see images and photos of flooding in Cambodia, visit MCC Cambodia’s blog at cambodiamcc.wordpress.com/.