More than 3 million people were affected by droughts and floods this year and at least 29 drowned in floodwaters as annual floods and the worst drought in almost a decade cost the country more than $30 million, a disaster official told the Senate on Wednesday.
All told, about 3.4 million people were affected by the twin disasters—1.4 million by the floods and 2 million by drought—with more than 1 million left homeless and in food crisis, National Committee for Disaster Management’s Nhim Vanda said Wednesday at a forum on the impact of this year’s natural disasters.
Floods destroyed 36,668 hectares of rice fields, 3,200 hectares of seedlings and other crops, according to a letter from Minister of Agriculture Chan Sarun to Prime Minister Hun Sen, which was made available Wednesday.
These numbers, though bleak, were an improvement on previous years, Department of Planning, Statistics and International Cooperation Director Kith Seng told the Senate.
The drought, the worst since 1995, caused a net loss of 49,821 hectares of short-term rice, 85,582 hectares of mid-term rice, 61,022 hectares of heavy rice and 10,387 hectares of flood rice, Chan Sarun’s letter stated.
The hardest-hit provinces were Kompong Speu, Prey Veng, Svay Rieng and Takeo, officials said. The provinces that came out the best were Banteay Meanchey, Kompong Chhnang and Siem Reap, Chan Sarun’s letter stated.
All told, the drought prevented farmers from cultivating almost 28 percent of their land, a net loss of 221,741 hectares over last year, Nhim Vanda said. Before the annual floods, officials estimated less than 37 percent of the nation’s farmlands had been cultivated.
“This situation is very worrying because the decrease in rice production will affect the food situation next year,” Chan Sarun wrote in the letter.
International aid authorities have said they will monitor the food crisis through the next few weeks; an international appeal for aid could go out if authorities determine Cambodia risks losing its food supply.
Eng Vy, a resident of Mong Russei district in Battambang whom the Senate asked to testify, told officials that drought has gone on for three years. Some of her neighbors have already left the district for Thailand, hauling carts back and forth across the border.
For those left behind, Eng Vy said, the situation is desperate.
“Eighty percent of the people don’t have rice,” she said. “Some of them are eating porridge and corn.”