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Next step: increasing access to clean water

Next step: increasing access to clean water

120928_09
Aun Hengly, executive director of WaterSHED, speaks at a forum held at the Phnom Penh Hotel yesterday, Sept.27, 2012. Photograph supplied

More than half of Cambodians living in rural areas still do not have access to treated water, about 200 people heard yesterday at a forum at the Phnom Penh Hotel.

The event was sponsored by WaterSHED, an NGO funded by USAID’s Regional Development Mission-Asia and the Stone Family Foundation.

According to WaterSHED’s Executive Director Aun Hengly, Cambodian government officials placed the percentage of Cambodians in rural areas with treated water at 40.5 per cent.

According to the Cambodian Millennium Development Goals of 2003, the Kingdom aims to increase this to 50 per cent by 2015. Complete national coverage is expected to be reached in 2025, according to the National Strategy on Water and Sanitation of 2011.

Developing Cambodia’s sanitary conditions and expanding treated water coverage is seen as crucial to reduce the number of people affected with diseases such as cholera, which is spread through contaminated water and food and reappeared in the country in 2009.

WaterSHED, which began in 2009 and plans to operate until 2014, has the objective of improving sanitary conditions via the introduction of low-cost latrines to more than 500,000 people. “We have a project model that can help entrepreneurs to create more business,” Aun said. “Watershed is one of those organisations that work on business change.” He invited the government to get more involved with his project. “I hope the government puts more energy and resources and more people can join,” he said.

Geoff Revell, program manager for WaterSHED, said the NGO does not intend to sell the latrines directly or become a company. “This is a temporary project with defined goals”, he said. “The number one outcome of this should be the establishment of a business model for local entrepreneurs.”

Brad Arsenault from USAID, said WaterSHED helps to decrease poverty and increase public health. He also said USAID is aware that every time more Cambodian rural communities are reaching a 100 per cent clean water coverage “is a significant achievement”.

To contact the reporter on this story: Javier D Yepes at [email protected]

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