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29 Aug 2002

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The rains have come late to many parts of Cambodia this year, causing widespread drought and failure of the rice crops. It is predicted that many people will be short of food soon. It's hard to believe that some areas are still dry when we see the swollen waters of the Mekong - far higher than when we arrived last October. Since many houses are surrounded by water every year, the word "flood" is not much used, but many people have been made homeless this last week or so as the waters have continued to rise. We can see that the water has reached some houses, despite their being built on stilts; small makeshift bamboo shelters have appeared along the sides of the road to house the displaced occupants. A dozen or more such shelters have also appeared in the playground of one of the schools we pass, and our own Chay Voloman school has acquired its first family, complete with herd of cows. We wonder just how official this "squatting" is and whether anyone is making a quick buck out of others' misfortune. Although neither the drought nor the floods are a major disaster, they are additional hardships for the poorest people to bear.