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Disaster Management Reference Handbook - Cambodia (December 2020)

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Cambodia experiences floods, regular drought, and damaging storms due to its geographic and climate conditions.1 Generally, flooding occurs for more than three months per year between July and December2 , and the country experiences annual flooding due to it predominantly being a low-lying country with large flood plains along the Mekong River.3 Many localized and national disasters are influenced by the Mekong River which has historically been productive due to its seasonal variations, but which has, in recent years, been heavily dammed.4 The effects of damming has restricted the flow of water to countries downstream. These countries rely on the water for agriculture, fisheries, and human water consumption. The damming has inundated communities and shocked the downstream ecology,5 and caused a decline in agriculture productivity.6

Cambodia is exposed to localized drought in the plains which place rural populations and agriculture-based livelihoods at significant risk. Due to the frequent occurrence of droughts and large-scale flooding, Cambodia is facing immense challenges to protect the country from the impacts of disasters.7

In addition to floods, drought, and damaging storms, as previously mentioned, the National Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2019-20208 recognizes hydro-meteorological hazards, disease outbreaks, fires, and technological hazards as potential triggers of disasters.9 This has been exacerbated by the climate change impacts.10 People in Cambodia are increasingly exposed to climatic hazards which pose a threat to livelihoods, healthcare and education.
Potential impacts of climate change have significant consequences to food security as almost 90% of the population are engaged in agricultural activities, and approximately 80% rely on subsistence crops. The population is also dependent on the fishing industry which is a major source of income and an integral part of the domestic food security. Rising temperatures and change in sea level and varying hydrological cycles are expected to reduce the productivity of agriculture, fisheries, and labor in Cambodia.

Disaster risk management in Cambodia falls under the National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM), the lead authority of the Royal Government of Cambodia. The main responsibility of NCDM is to facilitate and support the coordination of its member agencies and other stakeholders in Disaster Risk Management in accordance with the laws on Disaster Management. A Law on Disaster Management, which formalized the role of NDMC as the lead administrator and coordinator of disaster activities, was passed in 2015.11

In the event of a disaster in Cambodia needing international assistance, the 2015 Disaster Management Law outlines that, upon the request of NCDM, the government would appeal to the international community for assistance. The NCDM leads coordination and implementation of international assistance in terms of budget, resources, and materials, as pertains to implementation of bilateral, multilateral, regional and international agreements on disaster management and joint multi-lateral response during the emergency period. Foreign disaster responders are to provide assistance through the NCDM.12

During a disaster, the NCDM assembles at the National Emergency Coordination Centre for coordination activities.13 At the national level, the NCDM consists of the Secretariat and five technical departments.14 At the sub-national level, the structure is comprised of Municipal Committees for Disaster Management, Provincial Committees for Disaster Management, District Committees for Disaster Management, Commune Committees for Disaster Management15 and Village Disaster Management Groups.16