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Church struggles to help flood victims

Exceptional floods kill 200, wreck communications

Flooding in Cambodia Flooding in Cambodia
  • ucanews.com reporter, Phnom Penh
  • Cambodia
  • October 14, 2011
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As the worst floods in more than a decade sweep the country, the Church is struggling to deliver effective aid, even to its own community.

Caritas has been distributing food, drinking water and temporary shelters, bringing relief to 7,000 families in six provinces. Their effort went into action late last month and is continuing.

St Joseph Parish in Phnom Penh has been helping the cause since early October, collecting donations and providing staples such as rice, soy sauce, fish sauce and sugar to 500 affected families along the Mekong River.

And in Kampong Cham province, northeast of the capital, Koh Roka church has distributed 400 kg of rice to another 25 families.

But this year’s exceptionally heavy floods, which have killed more than 200 people nationwide, have also destroyed tens of thousands of hectares of rice.

“This directly affects our ability to provide food to children and the poor from our own fields,” said Them Thun, a lay leader in Siem Reap province, where 75 percent of the Church’s own rice fields have been destroyed.

Churches in Kompong Thom have also lost around 100 hectares of rice fields, to add to their woes; here, in Cambodia’s worst affected province, five churches have been under up to 1.5 m of water.

The damage is especially devastating for the country’s many smallholders. One Catholic farmer, Vong Tim, said his two-hectare field has been destroyed. “Some people have been forced to sell their cows and buffaloes cheap because they had nothing to eat,” he added.

“I’m worried about what my neighbors and I will do in the aftermath, without a rice field or any farm animals to sustain us.”

Caritas, however, has resolved to do whatever it can to help and has formulated a practical strategy. Its disaster management officer Sok Sakhan reports that they are already preparing to distribute rice seed to farmers whose crops were lost.

Commenting on the estimated 160 bridges and 3,000 km of road left in disrepair, he added, “we will help with rebuilding the roads and canals as soon as the flooding subsides.”
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