Cambodia
Capital:
Phnom Penh
Population:
16 million
Area:
181,035
km2

More than 50 percent of people in Cambodia don’t have access to a decent toilet. While the country boasts large natural water resources, they are under increasing pressure due to climate change, industry and regional development.

Despite a growing tourism industry, Cambodia remains one of the poorest nations in Southeast Asia. And while average standards of living are rising, the benefits of progress are not enjoyed by everyone. Many people still live in extreme poverty, with no access to basic services like clean water and decent toilets.

What's more, the devastating legacy of the Khmer Rouge means there’s an entire lost generation of professionals, creating major shortages of skilled engineers, technicians and health professionals. Post-conflict graduates are now emerging and there is an excellent opportunity to support these young people to build skills and drive their country's development.

Change happens quickly in Cambodia. We’re tapping in to this momentum to fuel our work. We’re working together with NGOs and the government to deliver The Royal Government of Cambodia’s National Action Plan set to make sure every Cambodian has to water, sanitation and hygiene by 2025. We’ve already helped develop innovative water, sanitation and hygiene solutions by working with local partners. From floating toilets to specially designed handwashing stations in hospitals, together we’re helping to change normal daily life for the better.

people don't have clean water.

That's 1 in 4 people.

 lack a decent toilet.

8 million people live without this basic essential.

 people living in cities have a decent toilet.

But only 2 in 5 people living in rural areas do.

Clean water, greener gardens

WaterAid/Tom Greenwood
"Now I can grow vegetables to cook and to sell at market. I did grow some vegetables before but they died because I could not give them enough water."
Krowh Phong, 75

In Prek Bei, around 900 people make a living from small-scale farming of their kitchen gardens and livestock. Lack of water services and toilets has added greatly to local poverty.

Until recently, the only way to get regular water here was to order it by the bottle from a travelling truck. Quality was questionable, and prices high enough to worsen financial problems.  

It was also less than punctual. “Sometimes the truck doesn't come for two days,” says Krowh Phong, 75.

The expense and inconvenience of living this way put a limit on what people could achieve.

This has changed dramatically, since our local partners DDSP – who focus on helping people with disabilities in Cambodia – helped us install a community well.

Phong is delighted by the new ease of access: “Now I have water, I can grow vegetables to cook and sell at market, like pumpkin and lemongrass and others.” She has even built a toilet for her house.

Innovation in floating villages

For the 100,000 people who live on Tonlé Sap, the lake is their lifeblood. We helped to trial the Handypod, which filters toilet waste through a floating hyacinth garden before it goes back to the lake - keeping the water clean for other uses like cleaning and fishing.

Hakley Ke, teacher, inspecting the HandyPod at a school in Phat Sanday, Tonle Sap, Cambodia, January 2017.

Spotlight on urban sanitation - Where does the shit go?

While over 80 percent of the urban population have access to a decent toilet, the question of ‘where does all the shit go?’ crops up frequently.

A pile of rubbish in Temporary Chong Kaosou community, Cambodia, August 2016.

We estimate that between 90 to 95 percent of faecal waste across the country goes back in to the environment completely untreated. Over the course of the year, we plan to turn the spotlight on this emerging public health threat. We’ll work together with stakeholders across cities to plan for, and support the technical capacity to improve sanitation services. In addition, we’ll work at the national level to draw attention to the importance of ensuring that faecal waste is safely disposed of so that the health benefits of this can be realised. To find out how you can get involved in this exciting work, contact our Cambodian team.

Makeshift homes and a rubbish-strewn ditch in the temporary Chong Kaosou community, Cambodia, August 2016.

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