Then the ones who pleased the Lord will ask, "When did we give you something to eat or drink? When did we welcome you as a stranger or give you clothes to wear or visit you while you were sick or in jail?"
The King will answer, "Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me." .......Matthew 25

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Typhoon Mirinae

PHNOM PENH, Oct. 31 (Xinhua) -- International aid agency Oxfam has cautioned that a new wave of rain from Typhoon Mirinae is expected to reach Cambodia on Nov. 2.

In a statement received Saturday, Oxfam said situations in communities already affected by Typhoon Ketsana and prolonged annual floods in central and northern Cambodia are likely to worsen with the effects of the new typhoon, putting already affected people further at risk.

"Typhoon Mirinae is currently on track to hit the northern Philippines island of Luzon . Although Cambodia may not be hit with the full strength of the typhoon, the country remains vulnerable due to its limited resources for preparation and response, and while the country is just beginning to recover from recent flooding," the statement said.

"Typhoon Mirinae could set back on-going emergency work and planned recovery and rehabilitation efforts in Cambodia ," said Francis Perez, Country Lead of Oxfam in Cambodia .

"The effects of the new typhoon could increase hazards in still flooded areas and cause further damage to crops and livelihoods. It may also displace communities or prolong the return of those already displaced by Typhoon Ketsana," he added.

Fearing a new threat of another typhoon, Oxfam is alerting humanitarian agencies and government authorities to help communities living in areas susceptible to flooding to be prepared by stocking on clean water and food and securing important documents.

The damage from Typhoon Ketsana runs to around 40 million U.S. dollars in Cambodia, according to the Ministry of Economy and Finance. The storm, which killed at least 30 people, affected about 6,000 families and destroyed thousands of hectares of rice fields, and local infrastructure such as irrigation systems, roads, schools and houses.

Afzelia xylocarpa - The Cambodian Beng tree

The Cambodians call it the Beng tree. The scientific name is Afzelia xylocarpa . It is listed as one of the endangered tree species in Cambodia.

From Wikipedia: Afzelia xylocarpa is a tree from Southeast Asia. It grows in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Burma in deciduous forests. It can reach 30 meters tall with a trunk up to 2 meters in diameter in a mature specimen. An alternative name is Pahudia cochinchinensis. The seeds are harvested for medicinal purposes. The seed pulp can be used to make cigarettes and the bark and seed are used for herbal medicine. The highly-figured lumber is often sold as Afzelia Xylay. The wood is used for ornamental woodturning, pens, knife handles, carvings, and musical instruments.

Other Endangered trees include:
Anisoptera costata
Dalbergia oliveri
Dipterocarpus alatus
Dipterocarpus costatus
Hopea ferrea
Hopea pierrei
Shorea henryana
Shorea roxburghii
Vatica cinerea

Critically Endangered species:
Aquilaria crassna
Dipterocarpus dyeri
Hopea helferi
Shorea guiso
Shorea hypochra

The Aquilaria crassna is the ketsana or agarwood tree which the recent typhoon was named after.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Blessings abound, we set forth...

Thanks to the generosity of friends and relatives, we have put together a total of US$4000.

This morning as Esther and Samreth left, I passed them US$2000, and will give the rest when we see them tomorrow in Phnom Penh. I am particularly concerned that we use some of the money to buy milk powder for the nursing mothers.

All in all, we are pretty excited about going to Cambodia again. When I first went to Cambodia almost 10 years ago, I never thought I would build up such an affection for that country, and the people there. This trip will see us bringing 60kg of old used clothes, children's books and toys with us.

Thank God for His leading and protection. We continue to entrust our lives to Him as we set out early tomorrow morning.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Economic hardships in Baray - a cry for help

Many of the villages in Baray have been existing very much below the poverty line. As Cambodia begins to pick itself up, the situation in the urban centres have improved considerably. But the villages still remain pretty destitute.

It seems this year has been particularly bad for the villages in Baray. Part of it is related to the global economic meltdown. Jobs are hard to come by. Many of these villagers are not landowners and cannot grow their own subsistence crops. So no job means no food. And the damage in the trail of recent typhoon Ketsana sure didn't help. The recent rains and floods have added to the misery. The rising inflation has seen the price of rice go up from 1000 riels (US$0.25) per kilo to 2000 riels

Esther and Ps Samreth have reported that there have been increasing visits at their centre from villagers desperately asking for food. Mothers with babies in arm who just have no milk to breast feed, and no way to feed their families. Mothers who offer to trade their babies for food so that their other children can have something to eat.

It is heartbreaking to say the least. I can't say I know what to do, other than to put out an open call for help.

I have pledged a meagre sum of US$3000. This is from some donations I have received plus some of my own. $2400 will be used to support the families whose homes have been destroyed by Ketsana. At the moment these families are living under tarpaulins and plastic sheets. Not particularly effective given the rains but better than nothing. We have targeted our efforts in just one village Phum Ley, where there are about 30+ families affected.

The remaining $600 will fund some rice distribution to about 50 of the poorest families from Phum Leav and another 50 families from Phum Ley. It's a small start but better than nothing.

If you feel you can help, please let me know.

I lead a small team to Baray on 28/10, to commission the schools and to distribute supplies for Phum Ley and Phum Leav. Please pray for journey safety, and for wisdom to know what to do.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Typhoon Ketsana - Damage in Baray

The latest information about the damage done on typhoon Ketsana in Baray. The District Officer has put out a call for help, reporting that 135 homes have been flattened by Ketsana. I am not surprised. The homes in many of the villages are pretty rickety wooden and palm leafed structures and it doesn't require much more than a strong wind to blow the roof off.

The damage is of course, nothing compared to what happened in the Philippines, but for the people in Baray who have lost their homes, their plight is nonetheless very real.

I am trying to raise some money to help the villagers affected. It costs approximately USD800 to construct a 4m square structure with a zinc roof.

If you would like to help please let me know.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Infant Mortality

Year Infant mortality rate (per 1000 live births)

2003 75.94

2004 71.48

2005 70.89

2006 68.78

2007 58.45

2008 56.59

male: 63.76 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 49.1 deaths/1,000 live births

The Infant Mortality Rate is a pretty good general indicator of the health standards of any country. The IMR for Cambodia has been dropping steadily since 2003, and now averages about 56/1000 (2008). Despite the improvements, this is still pretty horrendous. Out of every 100 babies born, at least 5 will die before they complete their first year, with male children affected most. For comparison, Singapore's IMR was 2.1/1000 in 2008.

For a global ranking go here. Cambodia is ranked 44th worst IMR out of 219.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Ketsana in Cambodia - update

Agence France-Presse - 10/1/2009 3:57 AM GMT
Toll from Typhoon Ketsana rises to 14 in Cambodia: official

The death toll from Typhoon Ketsana in Cambodia rose to at least 14 on Thursday with thousands of people affected by the storm, government officials said.

Three more people were killed Wednesday, including one crushed when his house collapsed and two who drowned in flash floods in the country's northwest, said Ly Thuch, deputy chief of the National Committee for Disaster Management.

The storm weakened to a tropical depression Wednesday, but officials said fierce winds destroyed 40 more houses in northwestern Siem Reap and flooded large swathes of the province which is home to the famed Angkor Wat temples.

Nine were killed and 35 injured in central Cambodia while two died in the northeast as the country was battered by the storm Tuesday evening. At least 100 houses were completely destroyed while more than 400 others were damaged.

"Thousands of people are estimated to be affected by typhoon Ketsana although we have not fully collected the figures," Ly Thuch told AFP before meeting with humanitarian agencies to further assess the damage.

He said local authorities and Red Cross officials were working to provide emergency assistance to victims who had lost their homes or been displaced by flooding.

Seth Vannareth, director of Cambodia's department of meteorology, said rains still continued in some parts of the country and warned of flash floods.

Children's Day Singapore

The streets were pretty empty and devoid of the usual school traffic this morning because Singapore celebrates Children's Day. Cambodia celebrates the International Children's Day on 1st June instead.

It just gave to cause to think of the great disparity between Singapore and Cambodia, and just how fortunate our kids are compared to the children in Cambodia, who despite the progress made in recent years, continue to be impoverished, uneducated and vulnerable to all forms of social ills.

I wish more Singaporeans can feel empathize with the tragedy of it all and just give a little of what they have abundance of, just to make the children's lives in Cambodia just that bit more bearable and happy.