Emergency support helps community in early recovery from El-Nino in Ben Tre

“Thanks to UNDP support, I now have 4 small freshwater tanks, and 1 large one. I was planning to take out another loan to build two cement tanks to prepare for the next disaster, but now I don’t need to”, Ms. Nuong said. Photo: UNDP Viet Nam/ Phan Huong Giang

For the past 8 months, communities in Ben Tre Province of Viet Nam have been experiencing the most severe drought and saline intrusion in more than 60 years.  With water sources dried up or saline contaminated, many of the poorest families have been forced to buy fresh water for their daily needs, at a price they can ill afford. Many have also taken out loans for rice seedlings and fertilizer, which they are now struggling to repay.

Highlights

  • For the past 8 months, communities in Ben Tre Province of Viet Nam have been experiencing the most severe drought and saline intrusion in more than 60 years.
  • With water sources dried up or saline contaminated, many of the poorest families have been forced to buy fresh water for their daily needs, at a price they can ill afford. Many have also taken out loans for rice seedlings and fertilizer, which they are now struggling to repay.
  • Looking forward, UNDP is seeking further international assistance to support households like Ms. Nuong to recover from the recent disaster as well as to strengthen their resilience to cope with the increasing risks of climate extremes in the future.

“After my husband died 10 months ago we fell on hard times. But our situation got worse with the drought and saline intrusion. All our rice and vegetables died. We had taken out several loans for our farm and we lost everything”, said Ms. Nguyen Thi Nuong, an elderly widow living in Phu Ngai commune of Ba Tri.

This is not the first time that Nuong has been hit by natural disaster. Elderly and in poor health, she is still recovering from the collapse of her house during Typhoon Durian in 2006. Before the drought, her family owned nearly half a hectare of land for cultivation. However, to cover the cost of more than 100 million VND of bank loans she was forced to sell more than two thirds of the land, and now rents it back for 30 million VND (1350 US Dollars) a year.

“I had taken out loans to build a latrine, and for land and fertilizer. But I had no idea that the drought and saline intrusion would come so early and seriously this year”, she continued. Her debts are a constant source of worry, and she now fears that her youngest son will have to drop out of school to find work.

Because her family were ranked as ‘near poor’ before her husband passed away, she was above the level to qualify for support from the local government. During the disaster, she was forced to ask her sister, who lives in another commune, for help. “Because of the loans, I am afraid to buy water as I don’t have money to pay for it.” Without water, her Daughters-in-law also had to return to their parents homes.  

To provide support to the most vulnerable families affected by the drought and saline intrusion, UNDP Viet Nam has been providing emergency relief co-financing by DFAT, and implemented through Oxfam and the Viet Nam Red Cross. Once the most urgent needs were identified, over 436 households in Ben Tre Province were provided with fresh water and water tanks, and other emergency relief.

With support from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), UNDP is also working with World Vision and the Viet Nam Red Cross to provide further support to over 6000 affected households in Ba Tri district of Ben Tre province, and Ham Thuan Bac and Bac Binh districts of Binh Thuan province.

Nuong’s situation has now improved. “Thanks to UNDP support, I now have 4 small freshwater tanks, and 1 large one. I was planning to take out another loan to build two cement tanks to prepare for the next disaster, but now I don’t need to”, she said.

Looking forward, UNDP is seeking further international assistance to support households like Ms. Nuong to recover from the recent disaster as well as to strengthen their resilience to cope with the increasing risks of climate extremes in the future.

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