Red Cross Readies Int’l Aid Appeal

As authorities try to come to terms with the twin ravages of this year’s drought and floods, the International Federation of the Red Cross is putting together a global appeal for aid, an official said Tuesday.

“It’s quite likely we’ll do an international appeal,” federation Head of Delegation Anthony Spalton said Tuesday in a phone interview from Prey Veng prov­ince.

Although officials were able to trim estimates Tuesday of those displaced in Prey Veng’s floods from more than 80,000 families to 10,000 families, many of the evacuees will probably need long-term aid to get through the rest of the season, Spalton said.

Nationwide, the floods have compounded the damage from this year’s drought, Spalton said.

“The devastation of the two is going to be substantial. Really, you couldn’t get a worse combination,” he said.

According to government figures, less than 37 percent of the country’s 2 million hectares of land was planted ahead of the floods. The rising waters have stalled planting even longer, authorities said.

“The drought is still leading ahead of the floods. The floods so far have not caused much damage for crops because not much of the rice has been planted,” Ministry of Agriculture Secretary of State Chan Tong Yves said.

In fact, two districts in Prey Veng province, Mesang and Kamchay Mear, still face drought, provincial First Deputy Governor Chhay Sareth said.

Authorities will start tallying up total damage estimates from the floods and the drought and hope to release them today, Chan Tong Yves said.

More than 1 million people in 39 districts have been affected by the floods in the five provinces through which the Mekong River flows, National Committee on Disaster Management First Vice President Nhim Vanda said. A total of 94,950 families have been taken to higher ground as of Monday, Nhim Vanda said.

Although the Mekong River Commission Web site has predicted the waters will continue to recede along the upper branches of the river, they will fluctuate along its lower branches, south of Kompong Cham town. Three of Cambodia’s seven measuring stations were still at the “warning stage” Tuesday, the Web site stated.

It is likely more people will seek aid in the days to come, Spalton said.

“As the number of these displaced people increase, then the demands [on services] will increase,” he said.

Water facilities installed over the last two years have helped keep shelters cleaner, but many are still in crisis, Spalton said.

“After the flooding, it’s the lack of access to clean water that’s a sure thing to see diarrhea,” he said.

The planned international appeal will ask not only for short-term aid but also for help building more sanitary shelters to prevent damage in years to come, Spalton said. The newer shelters have made a difference, but the country is still overwhelmed, he said.

“It makes a big difference at least initially. Our concern is that if people are going to stay there a few weeks, it’s going to cause health problems,” Spalton said.

The federation hopes to have the appeal ready by the end of the week, Spalton said. Although much of Cambodia’s plight has been overshadowed by the floods in Bangladesh and China, the federation will tailor its appeal carefully, he added.

For all of that, this year’s response to the floods is evidence of the government’s reform efforts, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Tuesday.

“We are working hard,” the prime minister said at a signing ceremony at the Foreign Ministry.

(Additional reporting by Van Roeun and Saing Soenthrith)


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