Andong - NGOInsider Photo Exhibition

8 images Created 7 Apr 2013

The People of Andong – Forced Eviction

In mid-2006, police and demolition crews forcibly evicted 1,500 families – more than 7,000 men, women and children – from Sambok Chab, an informal settlement in Phnom Penh along the Bassac River bank. The area these people were living in was sold to a real estate company that intended to develop the land for commercial purposes. Neither the real estate company nor the municipal authorities provided the people of Sambok Chab with adequate financial compensation for destroying their dwellings; instead, they demolished their homes and loaded them into trucks to take them 25 kilometers outside of Phnom Penh where they were dumped in a field with no shelter, no sewage system, no safe water supply, no electricity. Using debris from their broken homes and tarpaulins provided by a handful of civil society organizations, the families erected makeshift shelters. Without proper drainage, however, the field they were living on quickly flooded after heavy rains. Malaria, dengue fever, malnutrition, and skin diseases quickly overwhelmed the new residents of Andong.
Six years after the evictions, only half of the residents of Andong have been provided with new homes, paved walkways, clean drinking water, and electricity. A handful of NGOs and humanitarian organizations such as the Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, and People for Caring & Learning have intervened to improve living conditions for thousands of people providing them with a glimmer of hope for a better future. Unfortunately, much work remains to be done.
For two months I walked up and down the broken cement culvert that connects hundreds of dilapidated shelters surrounded by a lake of human sewage, meeting and photographing families who lived without bathrooms or electricity; without adequate food or protection from the elements; without schools for their children or enough money to purchase new clothing. Most of the children I photographed do not even have flip-flops; a dozen HIV positive families fight desperately to survive without doctors or modern clinics. Yet they continue to persevere, finding new ways to overcome obstacles that would quickly overwhelm anyone else.
The people of Andong may be voiceless and powerless but they remain strong and resilient. They have definitely been cheated. But they certainly have not been defeated. My only hope is that one day each family in Andong has a dwelling and a safe, clean community they are proud to call home.
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