Cambodia is an economically poor country which is also confronted with regular natural disasters. Heavy rains resulting in floods and also stormy rains and typhoons often create a situation of humanitarian crisis during many times of the year. The rural population often engaged in agricultural activities sees its means of livelihood washed away in a matter of few days thus leaving them in a state of poverty.
Caritas Cambodia in its new strategic plan intends to implement a disaster management policy which will help tackle this issue from a human right point of view and the gender perspective at three levels:
- Preparedness before the disaster
- Attitude at the time of disaster
- Action or response after the disaster
Such a policy will help tackle crisis situations adequately both at the national and grass root level. This policy will be complemented by a code of Conduct for Caritas Cambodia in times of emergency and also a disaster preparedness manual.
Preparedness before the disaster strikes
In many of the natural disasters, it is always the poorest who suffer the most. Being already in a situation of poverty, they live in difficult conditions, their house structures are very fragile and vulnerable, they live in bad sanitary conditions and they are the most marginalized and left to themselves. With regards to gender issues, women in these communities are also most vulnerable in a male dominated society. In respect to the government aid, they are also the most left out due to ignorance and lack of knowledge.
At the time of disaster women are also the most badly affected and physically vulnerable. The following policy guidelines must contribute to prepare these vulnerable communities to withstand such natural calamities and retrieve their normal living conditions quickly.
In order to achieve this, Caritas Cambodia will:
- Give special emphasis to integrate the disaster preparedness dimension in all the development programs. This will be undertaken by regular training of trainers, and training to the grass root actors. The VDA will have a disaster response mechanism and a reference person.
- The women group will receive particular attention in disaster awareness that is identification of risk factors, preventive measures, early warning, and above all the attitude to have in case of disasters.
- The most vulnerable groups will be sensitized towards disaster response and life saving measures.
- The different VDA will receive simple lifesaving kits and will be trained to use them.
- The agricultural farmers will also be trained in food security and anticipation of food shortage. To this effect, stock capacities will be initiated at the federation level.
- Keeping in mind the human rights approach, the communities will be trained to have early and easy access to government help both at the local and provincial level. The VDA will be invited to become part of the distribution mechanism.
- During the time of normalcy, the families will be encouraged to repair their houses, strengthen the vulnerable parts of the construction and get ready for any eventual calamities.
- The community organization process will also encourage local solidarity in order to motivate families that are less vulnerable to reach out to the affected families and help them.
- Particular attention will be given to the youth so that the local solidarity can be mobilised at the onset of the calamities.
- Wherever there are inequality and marginalizing social structures, Caritas will as a priority take up development activities with these communities to give them more possibility to come out of their poverty situation.
- An early warning system will be put up and the people will be prepared through trainings.
- Caritas Cambodia will create a Rapid Disaster Response Fund which will be composed of funds from the Partners and also from the local contribution. This fund will be easily made available in times of emergency to the coordinators and to the village leaders.
Attitude at the Time of Disaster
Caritas will mobilize its field staff and CD immediately to assess the needs and help the people. At the moment of the emergency phase, Caritas CD and field workers must get in touch with the VDA leaders and the identified reference persons in the village and explore ways to take people to safer areas.
Caritas will initiate the following:
- Identify the most vulnerable individuals and bring them to safer places.
- The Field workers and the CD in close collaboration with the VDA leaders will first explore the different possibilities for obtaining help from the national or provincial government. This will be done in close collaboration with the VDA leaders.
- Caritas will soon send out a first Emergency request to the network informing about the calamities and the need for funds. In the mean time the Rapid Disaster Response Fund will be made available for ensuring food and basic need securities. The field staff and the CD will be asked to comply with formal purchasing procedures.
- The CD and the field officers will be encouraged to verify if the local solidarity mechanism is in place and if there are still victims that need to be taken care of, Caritas will do so as a priority.
- The field workers and CD will be vigilant about the place given to the women and children considered to be the most vulnerable among the victims.
- In case of financial help, the VDA will also be associated in identifying the most difficult cases and distribution of funds.
- Special attention will be given to tackle psychological problems related to the emergency situation; need for medical care etc. This will be communicated to the national secretariat which will quickly provide the necessary need.
- An Emergency cell will be created at the national office with relevant means of communication and the field staff will update the national secretariat regularly.
- In case of major emergency, the national secretariat must be in a position to communicate within three days all relevant information about the nature of the disaster, the destruction both loss of human life and property loss and the assessed needs. This will be sent to the network for quick response.
- Caritas Cambodia will also designate a reference person at the national level for regular contacts with the network and also with the partners.
- In case of major emergencies, Caritas will put at the disposition of the network people to accompany journalists and television teams to the disaster areas.
- Caritas will also participate regularly in the UN and NGO sector meetings to synergise its efforts in the disaster response.
Post disaster response
Once the emergency phase is over, Caritas will envisage the long term activities and this will be done taking into account the human rights dimension. Being aware of the fact that under international human rights law, state bears primary responsibility for respecting, protecting and safeguarding the rights of their citizens, including in natural disasters, Caritas will primarily motivate the victims to ask for help from the government. The VDA and the community leaders will be accompanied by Caritas to the government authorities to discuss with them and ask the government to do the needful.
In the post disaster response caritas Cambodia will:
- Access the needs of the people in terms of property loss and also basic needs. This will be systematically done and taken up in the UN or thematic meetings.
- All the collected data will be submitted to the local Government authority along with the beneficiaries and their leaders.
- Once the government resources have been explored, Caritas will study the activities it will take up. Priority will be given to promote the conditions of women through financial aid so that they can get easily involved in livelihood activities, resettlement programs, and in the case of loss of property help them to retrieve their land deeds and other official documents.
- A formal emergency request in the form of a SOA or Emergency request will be sent to CI. This will respect the minimum standards in the CI framework for writing the emergency programs.
- In case Caritas is to undertake building of houses, all necessary precautions will be taken to ensure that all the victims have access to their land rights, especially widows. In case of problems, Caritas will take up the issue with the local authorities and ask them to do the needful. In case there is further need for action, Caritas Cambodia will refer the issue to the local NGO platform for collective action.
- In case of construction of houses, Caritas will take all necessary precaution to reduce the vulnerability to future disasters and ensure that households are restored to better living conditions.
- If the need arises, Caritas will reinforce the psychological accompaniment of the population and help them toward autonomy.
- Special attention will be given to bring back the children to normal living conditions by procuring them the lost school materials, uniforms and above all by facilitating the reopening of the school.
- Whenever it is possible, special attention will be given to promote collective participation through cash for work or food for work, so that the victims are able to regain their normal living conditions.
- In the post disaster response, attention will be given to initiate livelihood activities through community based IGP and credit schemes and by ensuring a regular accompaniment.
In order to ensure relevant Disaster Response, Caritas will abide by the following principles of conduct in times of emergencies and disaster response programs.
- The humanitarian imperative comes first.
- People have the right to receive humanitarian assistance and to offer it is a fundamental humanitarian principle for Caritas Cambodia. Caritas Cambodia as a member of the CI confederation and, as an instrument of the local Church, it recognizes its obligation to provide humanitarian assistance whenever it is needed, and the prime motivation of its response is to alleviate the sufferings of the people.
- Any aid is given irrespective of the race or creed .
- All aid given by Caritas Cambodia will be calculated on the basis of need alone. This aid will be given after a thorough assessment of the needs of the victims. Particular attention will be given to recognize the crucial role played by women in disaster prone communities and will ensure that their role is supported and enhanced, not diminished.
- All aid given will not be used for further a particular political or religious standpoint.
- Humanitarian aid will be given based on the need of the individuals, families and communities. Assistance will not be dependent on the adherence of the recipients to any political or religious opinions. Nor assistance will be subject to acceptation by the recipient of any religious or political opinion.
- Caritas Cambodia will endeavor not to act as an instrument of the local or national Government authorities or political leaders.
- As a humanitarian organization and as member of the confederation, Caritas Cambodia will act independently. It will have its own intervention strategy and working method. If there are possibilities, Caritas will make use of the means that the government may put at its disposition. In this regard it will act as a partner with the local government to help the people.
- Caritas Cambodia is committed to respect the culture and customs of the beneficiaries.