The 14 youths living at the Save Children In Asia orphanage in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district are overcoming their latest life obstacle with poise and balance.
Because flooding has filled the road to their orphanage with hip-deep water, they now scramble to and from their two-story house by way of a concrete wall, walking the 40-meter path like a balance beam that’s 3 meters up in the air.
It’s a game to the children, who are between the ages of 7 and 18. They pitter-patter back and forth along the narrow wall, barefooted and giggling.
But Sath Samith, the orphanage’s director, sees the ongoing flooding that has soaked the northern part of Phnom Penh—and thus his small orphanage—as a multifaceted problem.
“I try to take each problem step by step,” Sath Samith said Monday. “If I think longer, it’s just more stress for me.”
His worries are many: The public school, which is next door, has been closed for about a month because the school grounds and classrooms resemble a swimming pool.
Red rashes now cover the children’s toes.
“I cry, and feel like I’m going to die when I feel so itchy,” said Sorn Lim, 13. “I cannot be patient if I don’t have medicine,” she said.
And two of the children have had nasty cases of diarrhea since the flooding started, which translated into costly doctor visits and medicine, Sath Samith said.
Plus, there’s little room for the kids to play—though that didn’t stop them from entertaining themselves by gleefully chasing minnows that swam down their street Monday.
Children are feeling the effects of ongoing flooding throughout Russei Keo district, said SRP lawmaker for Phnom Penh Ho Vann, who visited the area with SRP President Sam Rainsy over the weekend.
“Flooding can affect the children’s health because the flood water is not hygienic,” Ho Vann said. “It contains a lot of disease, so the children cannot go to school, and the children have no place to play, so the children lose happiness.”
The Sam Rainsy Party will lead a protest if the municipal authorities don’t address the problem, said Ho Vann, who blames the flooding on the filling of local lakes and overwhelmed canal and drainage systems.
Russei Keo District Governor Klaing Huot has said that water levels are lowering across the district and should be back to normal within the week.
In all, seven Russei Keo district schools are closed because of high water levels, said Um Hoeurng, Phnom Penh education department chief.
He could not specify how many students attended those schools but generally downplayed the impact of the closures when contacted Monday.
“It is not much of an effect to the study schedule because this month the schools also have a lot of days off already,” Um Hoeurng said, referring to this season’s many national holidays.