Cambodia: Emergency Preparedness & Response
We have been building up the resilience of local inhabitants to help them deal with frequent disasters, and support them when they are affected by them. In cooperation with local organizations, entrepreneurs and the government, we have developed an early warning system providing people with timely information on an upcoming disaster. Furthermore, we also participate in developing crisis management plans to mitigate the effects of future disasters and to help the country cope with global climate change. In 2011 and 2013 we provided emergency response for people affected by floods, while in 2017 we helped people overcome the consequences of devastating drought.
Disaster Risk Reduction and Preparedness in Cambodia
Cambodia´s geographical location, available resources, and frequency as well magnitude of disasters makes its population very vulnerable to impacts of disasters such as floods, droughts, tropical storms and hurricanes. While emergency aid is the cornerstone of People in Need's work worldwide, the organization believes that the most work that is required is building the institutional capacity of local authorities responsible for disaster management and strengthening the resilience of at-risk communities to help them to be better prepared for disasters.
Since April 2013 People in Need has been implementing a project in Cambodia called “Building Disaster Resilient Communities” that is funded by Disaster Preparedness ECHO (DIPECHO) program. PIN aimed to reduce the risks of natural disasters and, where possible, to recognise an approaching crisis, because timely intervention can dramatically reduce the negative effects of natural catastrophes. With this intention, PIN supported local government in mapping disaster preparedness infrastructure and services. At the grass root level, PIN and its 4 local partner NGOs introduced disaster mitigation measures, including the construction of irrigation canals and ponds for better water management, reforestation, construction of elevated hand pumps and safe sites and places to shelter from catastrophes and the promotion of drought resistant agriculture techniques.
In close cooperation with its consortium partners, local government, national and international experts, PIN develops and documents community based disaster risk management models (i.e. low cost/ low tech housing design resilient to disasters; integration of traditional early warning systems with voice messaging through mobile phones) in order to continue replicating the best practices. Moreover, PIN mainstreams disaster risk reduction into school curriculums and trains teachers at schools how to inform children about disaster preparedness measures as well as what to do if a disaster strikes.
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Building Disaster Resilient Communities in Cambodia
PIN is changing the way disasters and the risks associated with them are perceived, creating a society that is more resilient and less vulnerable to the hazards and risks it faces. Cambodian communities are often ill-equipped for natural and man-made disasters. They are frequently hit by flooding, with 1.7 million people affected in 2013 (HRF).
Since 2013, huge steps have been taken by both government and civil society to build a disaster-resilient Cambodian society. PIN, in partnership with ActionAid and DanChurchAid and several other organizations, has played a leading role in that process. Funded by the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Office (DIPECHO), the project - Building Disaster Resilient Communities (BDRC) is now in its third phase, (Phase I 2012-13, Phase II 2014-15, Phase III 2016-17). By the end of 2015, the project had worked directly with 724,636 individuals and impacted the lives of millions.
During the first two phases of the project, PIN focused on the province of Pursat, in western Cambodia. PIN worked in partnership with Pursat’s Provincial Committee for Disaster Management (PCDM) to build up their capabilities in emergency response and disaster risk reduction at 32 of the most disaster-prone villages.
During phase 1, PIN piloted its voice-based mobile phone early warning system. The system enables rapid sharing of impending threats to those at risk, using mobile phone messaging. With the heavy saturation of mobile phones in Cambodia, they are an ideal communications tool.
Efforts were also focused on practical elements of risk reduction in the villages, including community based disaster risk reduction trainings; disaster risk reduction plan development; construction of irrigation canals and the construction of elevated hand pumps in community safe sites.
PIN’s portion of phase 2 included activities such as introducing drought-resistant agricultural techniques, and improving community safe sites in 13 flood-prone communities so they have a safe, dry space to stay during flooding. PIN’s mobile phone early warning system was also extended to cover three full provinces and over 42,000 users.
In the third and current phase of the project the focus will be on embedding disaster risk reduction into Cambodian law and government budgets and processes.As an active member of the Joint Action Group (JAG), a team of disaster-focused NGOs in Cambodia founded in 2008, PIN will work closely with Cambodia’s National Committee for Disaster Management to achieve this, with a particular focus on integrating gender into policies and frameworks.
Helping urban communities in Phnom Penh become more disaster resilient is another of PIN’s roles in phase 3. Twenty disaster-prone communities will be assessed and disaster risk reduction plans developed. These will be integrated into the policies of the appropriate sub-national institutions and an emergency preparedness response plan will be developed for Phnom Penh.
PIN’s mobile phone early warning system will be extended, with plans to cover the entire country by 2019. The operational components of the system will be handed over to the Government as part of phase 3, along with documentation and training.
By the end of 2017, it is estimated that 877,639 individuals across 10 provinces will have benefited from the three phases of the project.
Emergency response and recovery
In the autumn of 2011, Cambodia was hit by the worst flooding for the preceding 10 years. It cost over 250 human lives and affected almost two million people. People in Need immediately began to help the worst hit families in the Kampong Chhnang province, where it had been operating since 2010.
Thousands of safe water sources were flooded and many families lost access to drinkable water. The rapidly increased risk of diarrhoea, especially among children, is sharply contrasted by the limited assistance available. As a result, People in Need (PIN), in cooperation with the Provincial Health Department (PHD) and local health centres, distributed water purification tablets, soaps and other materials for the prevention and treatment of diarrhoea to over 3,100 families. Due to the rehabilitation of 142 flooded wells, about 8,000 people regained access to clean water.
In order to protect animal health and the livelihoods of impoverished people, PIN supported the Office of Animal Health and Production and local Village Animal Health workers to provide de-worming and vaccination services for more than 13,000 animals.
Immediately after the water receded, PIN and its partners provided high-quality, fast-growing rice seeds to 285 poor families which enabled them to harvest enough crops to secure sufficient stocks for the upcoming dry season. A total of 2,300 further families were able to resume their livelihoods thanks to repaired irrigation channels, investment grants for renewing livelihoods and other support provided by People In Need.
In local schools and Buddhist temples, which served as evacuation places during the floods, we built dozens of reservoirs of water, latrines and washbasins to help protect the health of more than 3,200 local people. Training sessions and material support for local health centres enabled them to be prepared to to provide rapid assistance in the areas repeatedly affected by floods.
Furthermore, with the support of the United Nations Children's Fund UNICEF, PIN rehabilitated drinking water sources in two Cambodian provinces, Kampong Chhnang and Pursat. This ensured access to drinking water for 500 households by repairing 35 community wells. Additionally, 600 ceramic water filters were delivered to the most impoverished people living in underserved areas affected by the floods.