Common domestic water source in the villages of the pilot project

Building communities’ resilience in the face of climate change in Siem Reap, Cambodia

An increase in climate-sensitive diseases and more severe periods of floods and droughts threaten the health of the rural population of Siem Reap province in Cambodia. This adaptation project was designed to strengthen community resilience against the health-related impacts of climate change.

Rural residents are beginning to feel the effects of climate change

Just a few hours outside of the city of Siem Reap, the temples of Angkor are a reminder of the region’s former glory. However, outside of the tourist sites, Siem Reap Province is one of the poorest in Cambodia. Rural residents depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. In recent years they have increasingly felt the effects of climate change, with heavy flooding, more frequent lengthy periods of drought, and an increase in climate-sensitive diseases. Strengthening community resilience against the health-related impacts of climate change was the goal of an adaptation project implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in cooperation with Malteser International.

Rainwater harvesting tanks provide safe drinking water

Map of the kingdom of Cambodia
Map of the kingdom of Cambodia

The project started in December 2014 and covered 10 villages across 2 communes in rural Siem Reap. A Vulnerability and Adaptation Assessment, which was conducted at the beginning of the project, identified a lack of access to safe drinking water during both floods and the dry season as a key vulnerability because it increases the risk of water- and food-borne diseases. To address to this challenge, the project provided rainwater harvesting tanks and ceramic water filters to 185 vulnerable households in the 10 villages.

Recipients of the tanks were selected based upon a range of criteria, including number of children and household income. Soeurn Roeury and her family are among the beneficiaries. The single mother lives with her three young children in Kandal Village in Srei Snam district. The rainwater harvesting tank and the ceramic water filter are a big relief for the members of this family, who did not have sufficient safe drinking water to meet their basic needs during the last dry season and were therefore exposed to preventable health risks.

Local craftsmen learn how to produce the rainwater tanks

Rainwater harvesting tanks built by local craftsmen
Rainwater harvesting tanks built by local craftsmen

The 3000-litre tanks are placed next to the houses and collect rainwater during the rainy season. If managed well, the rainwater collected can last the entire dry season. The tanks
are made of concrete rings with PVC piping and metal gutters and were constructed by local craftsmen who were specially trained in their production. In this way, other families in the villages can profit from their expertise and acquire a tank with their own resources. What is more, the local production of tanks provides an additional income for the craftsmen and their families.

Information sessions for villagers explain the link between climate change and health

The Vulnerability and Adaptation Assessment also showed that, while local residents were aware of changes in weather patterns and had noticed an increase in diseases like dengue and diarrhoea, they did not necessarily understand how these two phenomena are connected and what can be done to protect themselves against these illnesses. Consequently, Malteser International conducted regular information sessions about the impact of climate change on health and how to prevent and respond to climate-sensitive diseases. For these information sessions they teamed up with established community groups, like Village Health Support Groups and Water User Groups, so that these key stakeholders could follow up with other villagers and use their new knowledge in their work.

Villagers learn how to prevent and respond to climate-sensitive diseases

Information was presented in ways that were relevant to the needs of community members and could be applied in their daily lives. One example is the Health Seeking Guide, a booklet containing vignettes about villagers’ experiences of illness and descriptions of the services that health facilities offer. The guide explains to community members, particularly mothers, when they need to seek medical help and where they can access it in the quickest and least costly way. More than 2500 villagers have been reached by different information sessions since the start of the project.

Village disaster management plans help communities to prepare for heavy flooding

Disaster risk management planning on distric-level
Disaster risk management planning on distric-level

Climate change has increased the risk of heavy flooding in Siem Reap province which, in turn, threatens the health and livelihoods of local residents. To increase community resilience, each village has formed a disaster management committee which is responsible for developing a disaster management plan along with village stakeholders. These plans identify the key risks posed by flooding in each village, as well as its most vulnerable inhabitants. Rescue and evacuation areas are identified, and guidelines are provided on what to do before, during and after flooding. Each village has identified volunteers who are responsible for making sure that all villagers are informed if a warning of a flood or another imminent disaster is issued over the radio or through the media. “After the plans were finished, we supported each village to conduct a disaster simulation”, explains Richard Hocking, the project manager with Malteser International. “These worked well and provided the volunteers and village stakeholders a chance to practice their plans and identify gaps.”

First aid trainings provide hands-on skills

First aid training in Dangkor Village, Siem Reap Province
First aid training in Dangkor Village, Siem Reap Province

Heavy flooding also increases the risk of injuries at times when health centres are particularly difficult to reach. To further improve disaster preparedness at community level, 118 volunteers in the 10 villages were trained in basic first aid skills through this project. The first aid training was a complete novelty for the participants who greatly appreciated the chance to learn hands-on skills.

Improving the availability of drinking water, increasing understanding about climate-sensitive diseases and how to prevent them, and developing and testing actionable disaster management plans were all part of a comprehensive approach which has ultimately strengthened the ability of community members to adapt to the impact of climate change and to protect their health.

Related materials and useful tools

© GIZ/Richard Hocking
© GIZ/Richard Hocking
© GIZ/Richard Hocking
© GIZ/Richard Hocking

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