More than 15,000 children in Stung Treng and Ratanakkiri provinces will benefit from the “Change in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene” project.

The three-year initiative, launched on June 8 in Stung Treng province, aims to improve the health and living environment of children and their families by providing access to clean water.

The project received funding from the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and Plan International Korea. It will collaborate closely with Wathnakpheap, a local community development NGO, as well as the Ministry of Rural Development and local authorities in both provinces.

A joint press release said that the proejct aims to enhance the health and living conditions of girls, boys, and their parents in Ratanakkiri and Stung Treng, seeking to achieve this by improving universal and equal access to safe drinking water through the enhancement of water supply infrastructure and community-led sanitation efforts.

The project will directly benefit 4,340 households, including 14,760 children (7,500 girls), and indirectly benefit 1,024 households in 34 target villages across six communes in four districts.

A recent Cambodia Demographic and Health Survey highlights the urgent need for such initiatives. It reveals that 15 per cent of rural households lack access to basic drinking water during the dry season. Additionally, only 66 per cent of the surveyed population uses appropriate water treatment methods, while 15 per cent of rural households practice open defecation.

The study further reveals that the primary sources of drinking water are piped water into households, yards, plots, and bottled water. Tube wells or boreholes are also common sources. However, open defecation remains prevalent in Ratanakkiri (48 per cent) and Stung Treng (42 per cent).

Gwynneth Wong, country director of Plan International Cambodia, stressed the importance of water and sanitation for human life. She acknowledged that limited access to safe drinking water and proper hygiene in rural areas contribute to diseases like diarrhea and malnutrition. This not only affects children and adults but also results in financial losses due to medical expenses and absenteeism from work and school.

Wong emphasised the need for a behavioural shift in water usage and called for collective efforts to meet this vital basic need.

She highlighted that community behavioural changes, government accountability, and supportive interventions from development agencies are crucial to improving access to clean water and sanitation facilities.