Kampong Speu governor makes a stand for a healthy population. Stuart Alan Becker reports.
Kampong Speu provincial governor Kang Heang (left) shares a moment after a meeting about how sanitation was made a top priority for the entire province with Aun Hengly, marketing manager for NGO Water SHED. Photo by Amanda Sinclair
THE governor of Kampong Speu has directed his staff to support increased cooperation with NGOs to improve sanitation across the province to halt the spread of disease.
All the provincial government staff in Kampong Speu are now required to have a latrine in their homes – setting an example for the rest of the population.
Governor Kang Heang made a stand for the improvement of people’s sanitation by encouraging other provincial governors to combine NGO efforts with provincial and village level officials to make Cambodia a healthier place.
“I really want to improve sanitation in my province,” Kang Heang said.
“As governor I am happy to coordinate and support all sanitation work and I have a strong commitment to push the staff and have cooperation.
Kang Heang’ s strategy is to promote education about the benefits of sanitation in cooperation with NGOs like Lien Aid.
“Disease is spread because people don’t understand sanitation,” he said.
He is proud that preventable-disease deaths have dropped sharply since he became governor in 2007.
Kampong Speu was previously the highest zone of malaria in Cambodia, with up to 120 deaths per year. Now deaths have dropped off to almost none.
The work was done through NGO collaboration with government, the provision of mosquito nets, village-level health volunteers, as well as medicine made available both to prevent and treat malaria, Kang Heang said.
“Now nobody dies of malaria.”
Kang Heang said malaria was headed off by supporting village health volunteers – giving them rice to eat and a bicycle to ride and visit people, educating about prevention and distributing medicine.
Kang Heang has three sons and two daughters. He and his wife have five grandchildren.
He survived the Pol Pot regime by “working very hard” in agriculture. During that period, his mother, younger sister, her husband and their son were all killed by the Khmer Rouge. Kang Heang was born in Prey Veng Province and formerly served as deputy governor of Siem Reap.
“We need to work hard to reach people in rural areas to get latrines,” he said. Kang Heang praised the work of Singapore-funded NGO Lien Aid for its efforts initially in four districts of Kampong Speu, which has now expanded to seven districts.
Kampong Speu is a province with an area of 696,000 hectares and a population of 750,000, mostly rural villagers working in agriculture.Kampong Speu has about 60,000 people working in factories.
Kang Heang is also proud of the six irrigation canals developed during his tenure, increasing the rice harvest in some areas from 1.7 tons per hectare to 2.6 tons per hectare.
He has made food security a top priority for the province along with public health. While previously there was not enough rice grown there to feed the province, Kang Heang said that today there is 70,000 to 90,000 tons of rice surplus each year.
Income previously had come almost exclusively from agriculture in the province but today more factories are opening. Kang Heang would like to see more factories choose to locate in Kampong Speu and provide employment.
Investment in a sugar factory has recently come to the province and a Singapore company has invested to produce corn for export.
“We are working hard to encourage factories to come here,” Kang Heang said. The government had land available for factories and could do a 90-year contract with plant owners, that the geographical location was good for access to both Phnom Penh and the port at Sihanoukville, that there was a good available labour pool and that there were hydroelectric plants to supply power.
Another priority for Kampong Speu is the development of water resources, according to Kang Heang.
In the past, Kampong Speu has been known as a “drought province,” he said, but a project was under development with support from India and South Korea to develop 2 million cubic meters of water storage in the mountain areas of the west.