PHNOM PENH, April 26 (FN) — Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday ordered authorities at all levels to focus mainly on distributing water to people, as the country was being severely hit by drought.

"This year is considered as the disaster year, but I do not request the National Assembly or the king to declare a state of emergency," he said in a speech during the inauguration ceremony of a national road in northwestern Banteay Meanchey province.

"As the head of the government, I announce today the launch of a nationwide water distribution campaign, which aims to deliver water to people for daily use," he said.

The prime minister also called on political parties, drinking water producers and private companies to join the campaign.

At the ceremony, Hun Sen symbolically delivered water to some 12,000 drought-hit families in the province.

Keo Vy, spokesman for the National Center for Disaster Management, said on Monday that drought is causing severe water shortages in 18 out of the country's 25 cities and provinces.

"Wells and ponds have dried up in some districts in 18 provinces and hundreds of thousands of people are much in need of water," he told Xinhua.

According to the spokesman, the drought was forecast to continue until July due to the impacts of El Nino.

To help alleviate the drought, China has been discharging water from the Jinghong hydropower station in southwestern Yunnan province to the downstream Mekong River countries--Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

Chan Yutha, spokesman for the Cambodian Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, said last week that some 60 million people living along the downstream Mekong River are benefiting from China's ongoing discharge of water.