Dial 1294: UNDP and People in Need expand early warning phone service in Cambodia

Phnom Penh, 7 July 2019 – Under a project strengthening climate information and early warning systems in Cambodia, the UN Development Programme and NGO People in Need are collaborating again, this time to expand early warning service EWS1294 and to scale up awareness and capacity at national and local levels.

Named after the government-supported mobile short code ‘1294’, EWS1294 is a free mobile phone service developed by NGO People in Need in Cambodia following severe flooding in 2013. Currently 15 of the country’s 25 provinces are covered by the service. Now, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), People in Need will extend the service to another four provinces, bringing the goal of nationwide coverage by 2020 several steps closer.

“In 2018, UNDP and PIN worked together to install water-level stations and engage with communities in the flood-prone coastal provinces of Koh Kong and Sihanoukville,” said UNDP Early Warning Systems Project Manager Muhibuddin Usamah. “We are happy to launch this new partnership which focuses on Kampong Cham, Tboung Khmum, Prey Veng and Svey Rieng, provinces we know are subject to flooding.”

EWS1294 is a practical means for Cambodians to receive early warning messages. According to a 2016 study, more than 96% of Cambodians report owning a phone, and more than 99% are reachable through some sort of phone.

Members of the public register by simply dialling 1294 and entering their location. In the event of an emergency, such as a flood or storm, users in the affected area receive an audio message from the National Committee for Disaster Management, warning them of the risks and steps to take to protect themselves, whether it be evacuation to the nearest safe site, staying indoors or securing their livestock. Since being piloted in 2013, EWS1294 has been integrated into the National Committee for Disaster Management’s disaster management strategy.

In addition to expanding and promoting EWS1294, PIN and UNDP are installing ten new river water gauges – developed by PIN’s innovation team – across the four provinces.

Data from the readings is housed online at the EWS1294 website. When the threshold value for an extreme event is registered, the National Committee for Disaster Management is informed and on verification of the information, voice messages are issued to EWS1294 registrants in the affected area.

Training is being rolled out to provincial and commune authorities on hazards and the functionality of EWS1294, said Mr. Federico Barreras from PIN Cambodia.

“Everyone is a key player when it comes to disaster management, from the national level to the province to the district to the commune” said Project Manager Muhibuddin Usamah. “With the government committed to reducing the impact of disasters – expected to increase with climate change – we have the momentum, together, to scale-up risk reduction at all levels and ultimately, to save lives.”

In an effort to enhance collaboration and data-sharing related to early warning, and to promote EWS1294 as a means to reach communities, a national workshop will be convened by UNDP, PIN and ActionAid before the end of the year, bringing together officials from the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, Ministry of Rural Development, the National Committee for Disaster Management as well as NGOs.

The Royal Government of Cambodia is committed to resilient communities and reducing disaster risk, currently working towards a new Strategic National Action Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction (NAP-DRR) for 2019-2023, aligned with globally developed frameworks such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR) 2015-2030; the Paris Agreement for Climate Change and Sustainable Development Goals

Summary

  • Unique subscribers with access to EWS1294 SMS service increased by over 35 percent, from 74,000 to 100,000 mobile phone users

  • Ten water gauges installed and operational in the provinces of Kampong Cham, Tboung Khmum, Prey Veng and Svey Rieng, with training for Provincial Committees for Disaster Management to manage the gauges, including reading the measurements and fixing any issues that arise.  

  • Training for communities, linked to the provincial and district-level disaster management system.

  • Ten new Village Disaster Management Groups established in most at-risk villages, with support for conducting hazard, vulnerability and capacity assessments

  • Up to ten at-risk villages with improved evacuation safe sites

  • Eight Commune Committees for Disaster Management trained in EWS1294 and hazard, risk and vulnerability mapping

  • A national workshop on early warning and data-sharing

  • Promotion of disaster risk reduction and EWS1294 through schools and radio advertising

Map of EWS1294 coverage

A farmer in Raing district, Prey Veng, surveys his fields following severe flooding in 2011, not knowing how much of his rice crop he will be able to salvage © Cecile Pichon EU/ECHO

In rural areas in Cambodia, there is typically one mobile phone per household, which the husband controls. PIN works with communities to ensure early warning messages reach women and that they are included in local disaster management. © USAID Development Innovations Cambodia

EWS 1294 training with the Commune Committee for Disaster Management and Village Disaster Management Group in Chneas Chey Kraom village, Rea Thor commune, Preah Sdach district, Prey Veng. July 2019 © PIN Cambodia

EWS1294 training,Chneas Chey Kraom village, Rea Thor commune, Preah Sdach district, Prey Veng province. July 2019 © PIN Cambodia

Training on EWS1294 in Chirou 1 and Kompong Treas Ccmmune, Tbong Khmum province, June 2019 © PIN Cambodia

Training on EWS1294 in Chirou 1 and Kompong Treas Commune, Tbong Khmum, June 2019 © PIN Cambodia

Students at Pea Rang high school, Prey Veng learning about disasters and EWS1294, June 2019 © PIN Cambodia

Students at Pea Rang high school, Prey Veng © PIN Cambodia

Students at Pea Rang high school, Prey Veng © People in Need Cambodia

Cambodia remains one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the impact of natural disasters, with floods posing the greatest risk to lives, crops and infrastructure © People in Need Cambodia

The EWS1294 system provides the government with a user-friendly and intuitive web-based platform for monitoring events and sending alerts to the people in most need.

Related articles

UNDP and People in Need continue collaboration to realise a weather-ready climate-smart Cambodia’ November 2018

Reducing risk, reaping resilience: Furnishing Cambodia’s farmers with the knowledge to adapt to climate change’, June 2019

UNDP-supported project hands over 53 hydrological and meteorological stations to Cambodia, revolutionising climate and disaster preparedness’, March 2019

About the project ‘Strengthening Climate Information and Early Warning Systems in Cambodia’

With financing from the GEF-Least Developed Countries Fund, the UNDP-supported project ‘Strengthening Climate Information and Early Warning Systems in Cambodia’ aims to increase Cambodia’s institutional capacity to assimilate and forecast weather, hydrological, and climate information for adaptation, disaster preparedness, and early warning.

About People in Need

People in Need (PIN) – a global non-government, non-profit organisation established in 1992 in the Czech Republic – has been working in Cambodia since 2008 providing development and emergency assistance in both rural and urban areas, with one area of focus in disaster management and disaster risk reduction.

For Further Details:

Mr. Muhibuddin Usamah | Early Warning Systems Project Manager, UNDP Cambodia | muhibuddin.usamah@undp.org | Tw: @muhiusamah

Mr. Federico Barreras | Disaster Management Program Manager, People in Need Cambodia | federico.barreras@peopleinneed.cz | Tw: @people_in_need

Last Updated: 12 Jul 2019