Official: Millions May Need Emergency Food

While several provinces are currently afflicted by flooding, officials fear that a long period of drought could leave about 2 million Cambodians depending on emergency food in 2006.

The lack of water has left farmers nationwide unable to plant more than 45 percent of their paddy fields, Nhim Vanda, first vice president of the National Committee for Disaster Manage­ment, said at a NCDM meeting on Thursday.

“If there is no rain by the end of August millions of Cambodians will need emergency food,” he said. “It is a serious problem. We need to find a solution.”

Hunger could just be the first consequence if the drought continues. According to Cambodian Red Cross Director of Disaster Management Uy Samath, the drought could force a great deal of Cambodians to leave their lands.

“Eighty-five percent of Cam­bo­d­ians are farmers so they depend on the rain,” he said in an interview Thursday.

In Prey Veng province only 40 percent out of 250,000 hectares of paddy fields had been planted and 20 communes were reported to suffer badly from the drought.

“The harvest for this year will not be good compared to last year’s harvest, because a part of the province has been struggling with drought for so long,” said Yous Mony, deputy director of the provincial agriculture department.

In several provinces along the Mekong River, however, high water levels have caused floods.

For three weeks nearly 10,000 hectares of paddy fields in Stung Treng, Kratie and Kompong Cham provinces have been under water, which are still rising, Nhim Vanda said at the meeting.

In Kratie province, 21 km of road, 17 pagodas and 35 school buildings have been damaged, he said, adding that several locations along the Mekong have been or were close to being de­clared in a state of emergency.

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