Plan International Cambodia, an NGO, has embarked on a mission to improve the health and living conditions of children in Ratanakkiri and Stung Treng provinces, by implementing a clean water and sanitation project. This endeavour aims to enable their parents to access a consistent and equal supply of sanitary water.

Yi Kimthan, the deputy country director for programmes at Plan International Cambodia, announced on July 11 that the project would run until December 2025. It involves close collaboration with the NGO Wathnakpheap and the Ministry of Rural Department, as well as with departments of rural development and local authorities within the provinces.

“Our shared goal is to enhance and broaden the scope of access to clean and hygienic water in 34 target villages across six communes and four districts,” Kimthan said.

“This project will directly benefit 4,340 families including 14,760 children, of whom more than half are girls, while indirectly benefiting 1,024 families,” he added.

Kimthan further explained that the project would introduce community water supply systems resilient to climate change. These would include innovative community management structures for water distribution, and the construction of rainwater basins for households.

“Furthermore, shifts in attitudes and the fostering of sanitation awareness are vital for the overall improvement of community health conditions,” he elaborated.

Data from the 2021-2022 Cambodia Demographic and Health Survey reveal that 15 per cent of rural households lacked access to clean drinking water during the dry season, while only 66 per cent implemented proper methods to purify water. Similarly, 15 per cent of rural families continued to practise open defaecation.

The survey further indicated that 48 per cent and 42 per cent of the total population in Ratanakkiri and Stung Treng provinces respectively, engaged in open defaecation. Residents in these provinces utilised a variety of water sources including water networks, public taps, pump wells, underground water, rainwater, truck-supplied water, cart water and bottled water.

Lam Mao, the deputy village chief of Na Oung in O’Svay commune, Borei O’Svay Sen Chey district in Stung Treng, revealed that less than half of his villagers used toilets, with the majority still adhering to open defaecation practices due to a lack of available clean water sources.

“Open defaecation has led to an increase in diseases. We have tried to educate villagers on this issue, but their compliance is often short-lived, usually reverting back to open defaecation practices within 10 to 20 days,” Mao confessed.