A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
Oxfam predicts more widespread destruction caused by Typhoon Ketsana and a higher demand for immediate humanitarian assistance in Cambodia.
An initial assessment shows that at least 17 people died and 47 injured in Kampong Thom alone due to the effects of the Typhoon, which brought usually high volume of rainfall to the Southeast Asian country.
Kompong Thom is not the only affected province. At least eight more provinces are affected with Preah Vihear, Stueng Treng and Kratie being severely affected. Therefore, the worst has yet to come as the rising water levels continue to ravage these provinces, and a larger destruction is underway.
“The floods are affecting more people and wider areas of the country than we initially estimated,” said Francis Perez, Country Lead of Oxfam International in Cambodia. “Greater cooperation and immediate action on the part of humanitarian agencies in the country is increasingly important to ensure that groups with different kinds of emergency needs and vulnerabilities such as women, children, elderly, and peoples with disabilities and HIV/AIDS are prioritized.”
There is a high risk that that more lives will be lost, more families and livestock will be displaced, houses collapsed, roads, bridges, hospital and school buildings damaged. Public health concerns are making their way to some evacuation areas due to lack of sanitation.
An early damage estimate of more than 30,000 hectares of rice paddy and crops could be double or even triple as flood waters continue to rise. This could cause severe crop failure for Cambodia’s largely farming population.
Oxfam’s staff reported that water levels increased half a meter in Preah Vihear last night, causing the already evacuated population to struggle even harder. Up to 4,000 families or 20,000 people are affected in Preah Vihear as compared to just 100 families a week ago.
Livelihood options in this province have been severely damaged. Some flood victims need money to buy fishing nets to make their living. Some are swapping food and borrow rice from each other.
Yesterday Oxfam sent out more than a dozen staff members to Kampong Thom, Preah Vihear, Steung Treng and Kratie in addition to already deployed staff in the fields. They distributed all available stock in Kampong Thom and Kratie on Thursday and Friday.
In addition to the already distributed stock, Oxfam made new purchases of non-food items including 4,000 water containers, 2459 plastic sheets, 1,000 sarongs and scarves, 500 sleeping mats, 2578 water filters, 2735 mosquito nets and 300 women sanitary pads. The items are on their ways to the affected areas, particularly hardest-hit Kampong Thom.
Coordination among humanitarian agencies is also critical. Oxfam has carried out this coordination role in identifying needs of the affected population and sharing the information with other agencies. The Cambodian provincial authorities and the Cambodian Red Cross distributed food items to 1,545 affected families in Preah Vihear yesterday, whilst Oxfam, Caritas and other international humanitarian agencies distributed non-food items. Oxfam is closely monitoring the other affected provinces.
This humanitarian work is much larger than previously expected, and Oxfam is continuing to appeal for humanitarian assistance from all international humanitarian agencies to help the Cambodian flood victims.