Tens of thousands of families face desperate food shortages after tropical storm Ketsana battered Laos. Twenty-eight people were killed and more than 200,000 others affected when the extreme weather hit the country’s south in late September, causing an estimated £56million worth of damage.Three months on, homes and infrastructure are wrecked, tens of thousands are still struggling to survive with little or nothing to eat. About 126,000 people will need food aid in the coming three months, the United Nations forecasts. And some 72,000 will still need aid for another three months after that, it said.
Five provinces in south Laos were badly hit when Typhoon Ketsana swept through the Philippines, Vietnam, Laos and neighbouring Cambodia. With about 28,500 hectares of rice and crops damaged, farmers have poor predictions for the south east Asian country’s next food crop. Mountainous Samouy near the border with Vietnam, was the worst affected district in the southern Laos province of Saravan where only five of the 54 villages survived the floods with minimal damage, and more than half the people haven’t got enough to eat. In that area, floods wiped out 1,480 hectares of paddy fields, which would have grown about 2,200 tons of rice at the end of the rainy season in October. A large number of poultry, cattle and other livestock were also lost in the district.
"These people don't have enough rice to eat for the next year. They need over 3,000 tons for 2010 because they will not be able to grow rice again on the hillsides and rice fields until they first clear the land," said Samouy Deputy Governor Vilaysack Phomphakdy. About 350 of the district's 1,000 houses were destroyed in the flood, he told United Nations news service, IRIN. Many homes were swept away, while others lost roofs or were damaged beyond repair. Everyone who lost their homes is now being housed in temporary shelters provided by the government, he added. "All I have left is empty land and dead crops,” said villager, Bounted Sailavatay. “The floodwaters swept away ripe rice. I had just started harvesting the rice a few days before, but hadn't stored any in my house. I left it in the rice fields and the floodwater swept it away. The rice in this field would have been enough for us to eat for six months," Bounted said. Laos, one of the world's few remaining communist states, is one of east Asia's poorest countries.
By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children