SILVER SPRING, Md. – More than 30,000 people have fled their homes following renewed violent clashes in a disputed area between Cambodia and Thailand, prompting the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) to begin well drilling operations in an effort to provide clean drinking water to thousands of displaced families living in makeshift camps.
Following deadly fighting from February 4 to 7 over a disputed temple in the Preah Vihear province in northern Cambodia, an assessment of various local displaced persons camps indicated high demand for water purification systems and improved water sources. ADRA responded by drilling wells in strategic sites in Tmei Commune to give water access to 2,488 families. In addition, ADRA distributed 1,200 water filters to further guarantee safe drinking water when beneficiaries go back to their own communities.
ADRA’s first completed well provides up to 2,110 gallons (approximately 8,000 liters) of water per hour. To date, ADRA has built two wells and is in the process of completing a third. Following an assessment, ADRA will determine if a fourth well is needed.
According to ADRA Cambodia, both the government and other humanitarian aid agencies have welcomed ADRA’s initiative to drill the wells, especially since water access had been limited to water truck deliveries and bottled water.
The Preah Vihear governor’s office and related authorities have indicated that if the situation remains calm, most of the families will return home soon. In the case of renewed fighting, however, there are concerns that the displacement situation will worsen in the region.
Since 2002 ADRA Cambodia has been working in Preah Vihear implementing a water, sanitation and agriculture project about 62 miles (100 km) from the disputed area. Prior to the most recent fighting, ADRA was drilling for water at a site only 18 miles (30 km) from the existing camp that was set up by the government to receive all displaced persons from the province.
The response was implemented in coordination with the Preah Vihear governor’s office and two partner non-governmental organizations working with displaced persons. In addition, volunteers from the Adventist Church in Cambodia assisted ADRA staff in the project.
A dispute over the 11th century Preah Vihear Temple, a UNESCO World heritage Site, has reignited a conflict between Cambodia and Thailand that dates back decades in which each country claims rights to the temple. In the past, disputes have been often brief, however, the latest clashes erupted into deadly fighting that lasted for several days and left eight people dead and injured nearly 100 others.
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ADRA is a global non-governmental organization providing sustainable community development and disaster relief without regard to political or religious association, age, gender, race or ethnicity.
For more information about ADRA, visit www.adra.org.
Author: Hearly G. Mayr, ADRA International