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Helping the hardest hit when natural disasters occur

When disaster strikes, it is those with the least support who are some of the most affected. Maya, 54, has had no one but herself to rely on during the recent drought affecting much of Cambodia.

Maya is from the Cham ethnic minority and lives in a small fishing village on an island off the coast of Cambodia. She lives alone, her only surviving family member a 17-year-old son who is working in Thailand.

“My son took out a loan to buy fishing equipment but he wasn’t able to make enough money from this. He has been in debt by 1.5million riel (USD$375) for over a year so last month he want to Thailand to try to get a job picking fruit.

“I was very upset when my son had to go away. He is so young to be in debt already and have so much responsibility. His wages are all going towards paying off the debt so I try to support myself alone as best I can.”

For Mayas, this means working what odd jobs she can for local fishermen, earning an average of just 5000 riel (USD$1.25) a day. Even before the drought, her life was hard.

When water became scarce in early April, food and water costs rose. Maya was rationing her water use as much as possible to limit her expenses.

CARE, with partner People in Need (PIN), responded to the drought with the aim of helping the most vulnerable members of the community. This included prioritising pregnant women, those with disabilities, families with many young children—and women like Maya who are fending for themselves without any other sources of support.

“I was so happy to hear I was going to receive these tanks with water,” she says. “Currently I have just two small containers so having this much water for the coming month or so will make a huge difference for me. I hope I can also harvest extra rainwater from my neighbour’s house once their containers are full so I can keep more water throughout the year.”

The relief this will bring allows Maya to focus on her other basic needs, such as shelter. “There are some holes in my roof and walls that I have been unable to fix. I hope that I will be to save money now I am not spending lots on water and to use this for my house.”

Supporting those most in need gives them a boost to help themselves in other ways, as Maya’s story shows. By prioritising women such as Maya, organisations can make sure that they have as much impact as possible.

In response to the severe drought affecting much of Cambodia, CARE Cambodia and partner People in Need (PIN) responded to support communities in the province of Koh Kong. The response included distribution of water tanks and water filters to particularly vulnerable households in the most affected areas.

Read more stories from CARE's drought response >

Read more stories about CARE's ongoing work with women in Koh Kong province >

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