Saving lives across Cambodia’s provinces with technology

Published: Aug 18, 2023 Reading time: 4 minutes
Saving lives across Cambodia’s provinces with technology
© Foto: PIN Cambodia’s Early Warning System (EWS) Technical Specialist

Cambodia is highly exposed to floods, scoring 9.5 out of 10 in the 2023 global risk index for humanitarian crises and disasters, putting Cambodia as one of the countries in Southeast Asia most vulnerable to climate change.1 Due to climate change, it is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of flooding and drought, which can further put communities at risk, especially those residing in flood-prone areas.

In 2013, the Early Warning System (EWS) was developed, with “1294” being recognised as a four-digit life-saving number for communities who are most prone to flooding in Cambodia. EWS 1294 is a system that disseminates early warning alerts to communities through live data collected by river-water level sensors, and sends this data to local authorities, who send out warning alerts to subscribers of “1294”.

Being one of the flagship projects of People in Need in Cambodia, the Early Warning System has now been recognised as a multi-hazard system, used as a platform to send alerts, information, and early warning messages concerning other natural hazards apart from rain and flood.2 This innovative technology puts the safety of vulnerable communities at the core of PIN’s development work in Cambodia.

This year, as People in Need celebrates the 10-year anniversary of the Early Warning System since its development in 2013, and this year’s World Humanitarian Day, we would like to show appreciation and acknowledge the hard work of our colleagues who have dedicated themselves to help vulnerable communities, and work closely with hem on the ground to ensure their safety through PIN’s innovation and technology, such as the Early Warning System.

Meet our colleague Leak Ngeang, EWS Technical Specialist at PIN Cambodia. He graduated with a degree in Engineering from the Institute of Technology in Cambodia and holds a master's degree in water resource engineering from Thailand.

“It was 10 months ago when I started my career with PIN as the Early Warning System Specialist. I believe that being a part of this project, I can contribute and support many people who are living at risk from flooding. EWS1294 is a system that saves lives by informing them early about incoming flood hazards, so they can have time to respond accordingly”, shared Leak.  

Having experienced a bad storm when he was younger, he had witnessed the impact of the storm on his village and having no early warning at the time, this had motivated him to pursue his education and profession in disaster management. “I remember how bad the impact was on everyone. Houses and farms were damaged. At the time there were no early warning alerts nor systems that could help prepare villages for safety”, shared Leak. It was at that moment that motivated Leak to develop his passion for disaster management and water resource management.

Leak’s work allows him to engage with communities who have experienced flood situations in both urban and rural areas of provinces in Cambodia. He works closely with the National and Provincial Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM and PCDM) in installing, managing, and operating the automatic river level sensors (called “Tepmachcha” in Khmer, which means “mermaid” in English) placed in selected locations in all provinces across Cambodia.

Part of Leak’s work also focuses on providing skills and vocational training to local authorities to strengthen their resilience and preparedness from natural disasters. He travels to the field to check on the status of the sensors, provide support to local authorities, and interact with local communities in different villages.

“Being part of the EWS project in Cambodia has helped me use my knowledge and skills to help vulnerable people. EWS cannot stop natural disasters, but it can help manage the risks by informing people who are living in flood-prone areas to be prepared”, shares Leak.  

“I want to continue being of help to others and my fellow Cambodians. I am proud to be part of the Early Warning System project and to see it develop even further over time. Now, there are other dissemination channels for it, making it more accessible for more people.

What truly motivates me to continue doing this type of work is seeing how technology saves people’s lives”, concludes Leak.  

Autor: Legarta Johanna , Communication Manager

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