On 1 June Caritas along with the Ministry or the Environment and other agencies such as UNDP and Oxfam organised a seminar on climate change in the capital Phonm Penn.
About 100 people, including environmentalist, members of government institutions, NGOs and benefactors attended the seminar aimed at discussing strategies to deal with climate change.
Most people in Cambodia depend on farming for their livelihoods. 84 percent live in rural areas. Many live in high risk areas from flooding, droughts and cyclones.
Kim Rattana of Caritas Cambodia said, “One of the biggest challenges we are facing in our development work is the increasing occurrence of natural disaster. What we have achieved over many years is being destroyed by storms and washed away by floods.”
Last year, Typhoon Ketsana destroyed hundreds of homes in Cambodia. Caritas Cambodia had to provide 30,000 people with relief items and food.
Low water levels in the Mekong this year, the lifeline that runs through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, are threatening the livelihoods of more than 60 million people who live along it. In Cambodia, drought has already destroyed harvests and made fishing very difficult.
People in Cambodia don’t have the resources to adapt. That means they are extremely vulnerable to extreme or unpredictable weather.
Climate variability has also brought health risks for some of Cambodia’s most vulnerable communities.
People are vulnerable to diseases like dengue fever, typhoid and diarrhea. Cambodia’s Ministry of Health predicts that under changing climate conditions will increase incidence of malaria by as much as 16 percent.
Poor infrastructures and high poverty rates make malaria treatment unaffordable for large segments of the population. Only 55% of the population has access to public health facilities.
Caritas Cambodia is working in rural communities to raise awareness of climate change and hold disaster prevention training. They focus on women, teaching identification of risk factors, preventatives measures, early warning and disaster response.
Groups receive life saving kits. Farmers are taught how to store food. An early warning system is also developed at the grassroots level.
Caritas is also part of the Climate Change Network comprising 45 aid agencies.
“Climate change is a collective challenge so we all have to join our hands together to deal with it,” said Sok Sakhan, who works on disaster management for Caritas Cambodia.