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Clean water and sanitation improve children's health

The health of children in northeast Cambodia is improving thanks to good hygiene and sanitation practices adopted by their communities following support from Plan International, the government and local partners.

WASH officer has discussion with the community about improving water and sanitation.

Malik is a remote commune in northeast Cambodia. Open defecation was regularly practiced here which had a detrimental effect on community members' health, especially when combined with the basic sanitation and hygiene that was available. The majority of people depended on rivers and springs as their main sources of water.

However, through the combined efforts of community members, the government, Plan International and partners, historic changes have been made in Malik commune, home to the Jarai indigenous population. 

Malik has since achieved open defecation free status and its residents are now aware of good sanitation and hygiene practices.

Open defecation free

Mr. Kalan Loun constructed his family’s first latrine a few months ago. He and his family are enjoying the convenience of their new facility and the health benefits it brings.

He says, “In the past, my family defecated openly in the forest. We hardly washed our hands with soap. And all of us drank untreated water. So, we often suffered from diarrhea or vomiting.”

In the past, my family defecated openly in the forest. We hardly washed our hands with soap.

He adds that in order to collect water for household consumption, his daughters had to walk to the spring at the far end of the village along a quiet and slippery road. It was the only water point for the whole community.

Improved health and safety for children

Sav Rin, 15, Mr. Kalan Loun's second daughter, says, “Now, I don’t need to walk to the spring to fetch water anymore, because Plan International has constructed a pump well near my home. I no longer defecate openly in the forest, as my father has built a latrine for us at home.”

Plan International has also constructed latrines at her school and has provided the school with a water purifier, towels, and has helped educate students about using latrines, proper hand-washing and drinking of purified or treated water.

School toilet supported by Plan International Cambodia.

Mr. Kalan Luonh, who is also the village chief, says, “Before this programme started, my villagers answered the call of nature openly. We simply considered the spring water clean enough to drink and use. The water was contaminated by fertiliser and excrement driven into it especially by rains made us sick.” 

When Plan International started its work very few households in the area had their own latrines.

Latrine used by the community in the northern province of Cambodia.

However, a similar change has happened in a number of other villages in the area.

According to the Cambodian Demographic and Health Survey 2014, about half of the country’s population are living without a household latrine  

Long-term benefits for Cambodians

The 3-year intervention funded by the H&M Foundation and implemented through a collaboration between Plan International Cambodia, the Ministry and Departments of Rural Development, and Save Vulnerable Cambodians, will help address this key issue in Cambodia.

To date, the project has supported 6 villages to become open defecation free. It has also built 20 community wells, 11 school wells and 9 school latrines. In addition, the project has led to the construction of over 900 household latrines.

Watch a video of Plan International Cambodia's work to improve water and saniation in rural areas