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Protecting children from floods in Cambodia

Flooding in rural Cambodia hits the disadvantaged families the hardest.

Saroeun and her husband (pictured above) rely on construction work to provide for their five children, aged 17 to seven.

Two months of flooding has put their work on hold, forced their children out of school and made it hard to put food on the table.

“This year’s flood, it’s difficult to find food  – even fish,” she says.

“My construction work was paused. My husband needs to walk far to find fish. I pick some morning glory around house to sell.

“I can earn only around US$2.5 a day. It’s so hard for us to live.”

Every year the monsoon season arrives in Cambodia and it impacts families like Saroeun’s who live in tiny riverside villages. Normally, flooding lasts three weeks, but this year it has lasted two months and still has not subsided.

Floodwaters have cut many communities off from health centres, clean water, homes and schools.

The lack of clean water and medical care has increased the risk of infectious disease, while floodwaters also bring a greater risk of snakes and malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

Many parents have been unable to work and children have not been able to go to school.

Fortunately, ChildFund’s Project Humanity partners are helping to ensure children and families get the help they need.

Around 200 families received emergency packs that includes 50kg of rice, water containers, soap, food and living supplies.

A Child-Friendly Space has been established, and village volunteers trained, so that children have a safe space where they can play and continue their education while schools are closed, and have access to safe drinking water, books, colouring paper, pencils, toys, games and snacks for children.

Temporary toilets have also been provided and local officials have received fuel for boats, generators and motorbikes so they can reach and support the most remote families.

Disaster risk reduction is a key focus of ChildFund’s work in Cambodia, and in recent years we have been working in partnership with local communities to ensure they are better prepared for natural disasters. This includes measures to mitigate the damage that flooding can cause to lives, homes and the local economy.

In 2017, ChildFund’s staff gave students in local primary schools training on what to do before, during and after a disaster. Local officials and relevant community focal persons were selected to run training drills so they would be prepared to respond to a disaster.

While this year’s floods have lasted longer than previous years, ChildFund’s disaster training is paying dividends.

“Between 2010 and 2016 – before ChildFund conducted its emergency response campaign – there were at least five children passed away from drowning during flood,” Tam Sles, a commune chief, says.

Boramy, 13, has been using her training to keep children safe

This year, the village did not lose a child. Boramy, 13, said the training helped children avoid risks and identify dangerous situations in the village.

“Whenever I saw children who was swimming alone, I always helped them find their parents and guardians,” Boramy says.

“I told them to make sure children was not swimming alone.

“With this information, we are able to keep children safe.”

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