In the name of love

Image: WaterAid/Remissa Mak

“I love you," Mengheang tells me during our interview. This exclamation catches me by surprise, but it’s reflective of the 24-year-old’s affectionate nature. As I spend more time with him, though, I learn that I’m not the only person Meangheang loves.

“I really love the mother,” he tells me. ‘The mother’ is his nickname for Mrs. Kim, the inspirational chief of Mong Riev Health Centre in Tboung Khmum, Cambodia. “If I had 3000 riel in my pocket, I wouldn’t want to spend it on myself. I would buy a banana for the mother.”

Menghang could be forgiven for having a less optimistic view of the world. A few years ago, his life changed when he received injuries to his head, clavicle bone and legs during a motorcycle accident. His second cousin died in the accident.

I don’t discriminate between race, between people of different countries. For me, I love them all. We are all human, we are the same.

He is now a regular visitor to the health centre, where the nurses and ‘the mother’ look after him. Over the years, he has noticed the water, toilet and hygiene facilities at the centre become more accessible for people with disabilities like him. “Now I can use this toilet independently. The toilet upstairs I can also use without help, I just need to bring my walker.”

These accessibility improvements have come off the back of WaterAid’s recommendations, which have more recently informed national guidelines that will be applied to all 1100 public health centres in Cambodia.

Health care centres around the world

WaterAid’s advocacy for clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene in health care centres has extended beyond Cambodian borders. In May this year, the United Nations passed a Resolution calling on every health care facility on earth to have these fundamental facilities. WaterAid has been advocating for this Resolution for many years and used examples from our work to show evidence for its positive impact on mothers and babies.

WaterAid's work in healthcare centres in Cambodia is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

This article was written by Kevin Hawkins and first appeared in WaterAid's Oasis Spring-Summer 2019 magazine, available for download here.