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Cambodians struggle after this year’s floods

In August, Cambodia experienced its worst floods in more than ten years and many families are struggling to recover.

The floods affected 18 of the country’s 24 provinces. Large swathes of farmland lay under water for months, leaving small-scale farmers unable to make a living. Since over 70% of Cambodians depend on agriculture and livestock, the situation has become extremely precarious in parts of the country. A spokesperson for the charity Save the Children said that people who “were already poor and vulnerable before” now faced an even worse situation and recovery from the latest flooding disaster would “take years”.

Many able-bodied Cambodians have left their land, seeking work in the cities or in neighbouring countries like Thailand. Some have been forced to seek jobs in order to pay off small-scale loans taken out to invest in their homes or farms. With harvests destroyed, jobs away from home offer the only way for many to pay back money which is owed.

However, children and the elderly are left behind in the villages, to make their way as best they can. One 75-year old grandmother spoke to Alertnet about her situation. The widow looks after three of her grandchildren (14, 6 and 5 years of age) while their parents are away looking for jobs. She is only managing to survive on rice handed out by agencies, though her supplies are fast running out. Crops in her small plot of land were washed away by the floods and any new harvest of peas, which she can pickle and sell, will not be ready for another two months. “I always worry about what my grandchildren have to eat,” the tearful grandmother told the news agency.

As well as leaving a food crisis, the floods also came at a huge personal cost to some families. Almost 250 people were killed and nearly half the fatalities were children. Many of these died from drowning, which is the leading cause of death among children over one in Cambodia. Organisations such as The Alliance for Safe Children have been running campaigns and programmes in countries of the Far East to raise awareness about the dangers of water and lakes. But as many infants are left in the care of extended family members while parents work, it is hard for carers to keep an eye on toddlers the whole time. The recent high waters across the region have therefore taken a heavy toll. Over 180 children have died in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam during the flooding of the last few months.

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