Severe destructions resulted from the decade long political conflicts still cause Cambodia downhill. Natural disaster, on the other hand the border conflicts, has caused Cambodia highly potential-exposed to both economical and social vulnerabilities; as a result, Cambodia is highly susceptible to natural disasters, primarily floods. Currently Cambodia is particularly prone to annual river flooding during the monsoon-raining season while other phenomena also frequently occur such as; tropical storms, droughts and fires etc.
Muslims make up less than three percent of the predominantly Buddhist population of Cambodia. About 80% of Muslims belong to the Cham ethnic group; they stay along the Mekong River and Tonglesap basin areas with higher vulnerability, depending on farming and fishing; remained uneducated and poverty kept them starving even during the religious or social festivals.
Responses of Muslim Aid Cambodia
25 years ago, Muslim Aid was formed in London to respond the famine situation in Ethiopia. Till today, whenever there is a man-made or natural disaster at any place in the globe from Haiti to Pakistan whereby external assistance is essential, MA comes-up with humanitarian aid immediately and operates effectively regardless race, religion, creed and political opinion. In addition to disaster, Muslims or the Cham ethnic group in Cambodia are facing some other hardships to properly observe their religious events such as Ramadan and Qurbani due to poverty and some social exclusion. MAC is implementing the following projects to address the overall issue in Cambodia:
I. Disaster Risk Reduction and Response
II. Ramadan Project (feeding the fasting people).
III. Qurbani Project (sharing a feast with meat).
IV. Religious dues (Fydia, Kaffara, Akikah, Animal Sacrifice, etc).
These services of MAC are contributing directly to response in the need situation of any population group Cambodia and in the neighboring countries with a concentration to reduce the extreme hunger of sever vulnerable communities (CMDG 1). Also those are dealing with the affect of climate change and disaster risks assessment, response and reductions.
Views from the Frontline
MAC made a project partnership agreement with a local NGO: Save the Earth Cambodia (STEC) for country disaster risk assessment on local government and civil society perspectives. The project ”Views from the Frontline” reviewed a follow up initiative of the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) on a substantial reduction in disaster losses by 2015 and adopted by 168 governments including Cambodia at the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, held in 2005 in Hyogo, Japan, focusing on building the resilience of nations and communities to disasters.
Followings are the key outcome of this project partnership:
- Established a National Advisory Committee;
- Conducted the survey in 10 provinces at local government and community level;
- Drafted a Country Report based on the survey result;
- Organized a National Workshop at and National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM) for finalization of the Country Report;
- Shared the final report with the Cambodian Government and presented to the Global Network (GN).
Aid to the Thai border conflict affected population at Preah Viear
In January’09 MAC in collaboration with Oxfam (GB), conducted a survey to asses the impact on Cambodian villagers living around the Preah Vihear temple for the escalating border conflict with Thailand. Also Preah Vihear Provincial Department of Rural Development (PDRD) assisted in the purpose. To minimize the sufferings especially the extreme hunger resulted from the loss of cross border and tourism job, MAC distributed food relief (dry ration for a month) among 142 most vulnerable poor families at Preah Vihear in August’09. Deputy Provincial Governor of Preah Vihear province and few other government high-officials were present and actively assisted the relief distribution. MAC has the plan to work more at this province to find a sustainable way-out for the affected families.
Response to Katsana typhoon at Kampong Thom and flash flood at Kampot
Katsana typhoon and flash flood from September to October’09 left millions of poor and ultra-poor Cambodian even more vulnerable situation in few provinces of Cambodia. Cambodian government and other development and humanitarian agencies, Muslim Aid came forward to stand beside those affected and at risk population with food and non-food items. Immediately after the typhoon hit, MAC distributed dry food relief (food for 2-3 weeks of a family) among flood water abandoned 220 families at the most hard hit villages under Kampot province and Kampong Thom province. Widows, disable persons and orphans were given preference as the recipients of the relief. When the flood water slowly went down, poor villagers started facing many other challenges. Regaining their source of drinking water was one of them. Most flood affected villagers are very poor and for safe drinking water, they could not afford to install simple water-well with hand pumps. Instead they dug some small bore whole with some rings or no rings. But the flood water has contaminated all those bore wholes or wells and none of them had the capacity to rent a pump to clear out the contaminated water. Hence the entire family was facing serious difficulties in getting water for drinking and other household necessities. MAC arranged a little pump out of it’s emergency response fund and repaired many of those wells in the affected villages in two provinces. MAC also took a project for post-Katsana community based disaster rehabilitation on integrated agriculture, food security, and water-sanitation intervention from the yr 2010.
Everyday life of Muslim families differs a lot in the holy month of Ramadan (Arabic calendar). Self-control, fasting from sun-rise to sunset, additional prayers in the night, patience and honesty are emphasized and practiced in this month for achieving divine prospect. In Cambodia, no change in work-schedule occurs which is usual in Muslim countries during this month. So, it becomes very hard for the Cambodian poor Muslims to perform fasting in proper credence. The day labourer can not work hard and can not earn their daily bread, even some days they can not afford to have a single meal to break the day long fast. MAC arranged Ifter
(fast breaking meal) and distributed Special Food Package (Rice 20 Kg, Sugar 2 Kg, Salt 1 Kg, Oil 2 ltre, Ovaltine 400gm, Cn Milk 3 cans, Fish Can 3 nos, Dat 1 Kg, Noodles 10 packs) among 3,967 hard-core poor families benefiting a total of 27,880 people in 12 provinces in the year 2008-09.
Qurbani (Eid-ul-Adha) comes in festive mood after about two and half months of the month of Ramadan. It’s a mark of sacrifice and solidarity among all the Muslims. The main event is to slaughter a cow, sheep or goat as a symbolic sacrifice for the Almighty and share the meat and good food among the family members, relatives and among the poor neighbours. In Cambodia, Qurbani is not observed in festive mood as Muslims are mostly poor and minority here and they do not have the ability to buy an animal and sacrifice. MAC arranged sacrifice of a total 446 cows during the year 2008 and 2009, and distributed the meat among 251 villages in
Cambodia and in Vietnam. Deniz Feneri-Turkey, ICNA Relief – Canada and Helping Hand-USA supported MAC in 2009 Qurbani programme to increase the coverage.
Emergency relief to the fire affected 452 families at Km7
In December, 2009, MAC distributed relief to a fire havoc affected 452 poor families at Km7 village under Russey Keo suburb of Phnom Penh. Each family received 25Kg of rice and cash 10,000 Riel. H.E Min Khin, Minister, Ministry of Cult and Religion has kindly joined the distribution program at Km8 mosque and encouraged the distressed families to regain their mental and physical strength.
“We lost everything in the fire from a cooking gas cylinder explosion at my neighboring house.
We got some plastic sheets from Cambodian Red Cross and could make a temporary shelter on the ashes of my house. But we got nothing left to eat. My husband could not go work for few days as we all are busy on clearing the burnt items and ashes. Now this food package will help my family to stay away from starving.” expressed Mrs. Mansot(59), a mother of four children while receiving the food relief from MAC.
With a small Rapid Response Fund provided
by HQ, MAC will be able to carry out instant response in our target areas and elsewhere, using our strong links to community leaders and local authorities to design effective response.
Our work in response to Typhoon Ketsana 2009 would continue through
2011, in providing sustainable agriculture assistance to affected farmers. This could also be the basis to further develop our profile and credibility in this sector, and to add agricultural activities to our SME ‘portfolio’ with the MA micro-finance programme.
There will be a significant scope for MAC (government and donor support) to launch innovative initiative of reducing the vulnerability of the poor by the climate change affects.
Ramadan, Qurbani and other religious dues will be continued on seasonal basis to aid the extreme hunger.