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Gov’t drought relief efforts can’t reach 500,000 people

Authorities in Banteay Meanchey fill containers with water late last month for distribution to the public after the province was hit by a water shortage. National Police
Authorities in Banteay Meanchey fill containers with water late last month for distribution to the public after the province was hit by a water shortage. National Police

Gov’t drought relief efforts can’t reach 500,000 people

Around 500,000 Cambodians who face water shortages still have not received government assistance since drought relief efforts began on April 26, according to the National Committee for Disaster Management.

The committee’s first vice president, Nhem Vanda, yesterday said the government was assisting 80 per cent of the estimated 2.5 million people (about 600,000 families) affected by the ongoing water crisis.

“We still will distribute the water to the people until they have water and it rains enough in the area,” Vanda said from Kampong Speu – one of 18 provinces facing shortages.

Since Prime Minister Hun Sen launched the water campaign on April 26, the government has spent 500 million riel (about $125,000) on water distribution to about 100 districts nationwide, Vanda said.

The government planned to spend another 500 million riel on distribution, as well as reservoir restoration and well-building.

Read: Scenes from a drought

According to the Ministry of Education’s director of primary education department, Chan Sophea, the ministry was in the process of assessing water needs within schools.

School hours have already been altered due to a heat wave.

“So far, 2,500 [primary and secondary] schools out of 10,000 are facing water shortages,” he said.

Thai newspaper the Nation reported on Wednesday that 26 Cambodians who were arrested for illegally crossing the border into Thailand told authorities that they were escaping severe drought conditions in Battambang, Banteay Meanchey and Siem Reap to seek employment in Bangkok.

Vanda admonished people not to politicise the drought, before immediately questioning why “other” parties were not helping out.

“I am disabled in one hand,” he continued, referring to his arm lost during the civil war, “but I could distribute water and hold water on my shoulder for the people. How about other parties?”

The apparent reference to the opposition echoed remarks made previously by Prime Minister Hun Sen, which he tripled down on in a speech yesterday.

“I do not dare call on the other parties to help people,” the premier said, before going on to appeal to “all members of the Cambodian People’s Party to continue to rescue people from lack of water”.

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