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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs     21 October  2011

Isolated villagers finally receive aid

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About 400 families stranded for more than a month atop a hill in Battambang province in Cambodia received coupons for emergency food aid yesterday.

In addition to a severe shortage of food, the families, whose villages in Moung Russei district's Talos commune are submerged, have no medical care and scant shelter.

The 50 or so pregnant women and roughly 300 children among them, as well as the elderly, were falling ill, Chhai Rim, one of the stranded villagers, told media by phone.

"Children, old people and the pregnant women are sick with flu, fever and diarrhea," he said.

Phaenn Mom, 27, said the group had received one delivery of food, enough for a week, from the Cambodian Red Cross about two weeks ago.

It consisted of 25 kilograms of rice, 10 packages of noodles and one bottle of fish sauce per family, she said.

John Macgregor, communications director of the Cambodian War Amputees Rehabilitation Society, reached the stranded group yesterday.

His NGO and two others that work in the province will today begin providing aid via trucks and boats to about 6,000 people stranded on elevated land in four communes.

"It will be a catastrophe if the rain continues for another week," Macgregor said, describing the people reached yesterday as ranging from "scraping by" to hungry, sick, desperate and distraught.

Officially, Battambang is not among the provinces hardest hit by floods.

According to the National Committee for Disaster Management, not a single school in the province has been damaged by the flooding, which began in early August.

But as more detailed assessments are made by the NCDA and international NGOs, the scope of what the government has yet to declare a national emergency is becoming clear.

More than 400,000 children have been unable to start school this year because of the flooding, which has damaged 1,138 schools nationwide, according to the latest report from the UN Disaster Management Team.

The report, which relies heavily on NCDA data, put the number of households that have been evacuated because of flooding at 34,204, and the number of people affected at 1.2 million, or slightly less than 10 per cent of Cambodia's population.

The report also said diarrhea outbreaks had been detected in Svay Rieng and Kampong Thom provinces by UNICEF health staff.

The World Health Organisation said on Wednesday that the Ministry of Health had not detected any such outbreaks in flood-hit areas.

"Have they been to Battambang?" Macgregor asked.

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