Delegates from China, UNICEF Cambodia and UNICEF China have commenced a three-day field visit to the country to assess the feasibility of implementing climate-resilient water and sanitation (WASH) technologies as part of the South-South Cooperation Programme.

UNICEF Cambodia, in a press release on August 29, announced its collaboration with China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, along with the Ministry of Water Resources, to formulate an innovative WASH programme. This initiative is focused on energy-saving solutions which adapt to climatic changes, sourced from China.

The mission’s goal is to tap into China’s expertise in solar-powered water supply, purification and sewage treatment, in both urban and rural contexts. This endeavour aims to identify gaps in systems and infrastructure.

Will Parks, UNICEF representative to Cambodia, stressed the child rights crisis posed by ecological instability. Cambodia ranks high on the Children’s Climate Risk Index due to the nation’s vulnerability to environmental impacts. These include water scarcity, riverine flooding and vector-borne diseases, directly affecting children’s well-being.

“We appreciate China and UNICEF China’s assistance in introducing innovative approaches for building resource-efficient environments in vulnerable communities,” he said.

UNICEF Cambodia highlighted the pressing issue of inadequate access to improved water sources and sanitation in rural areas, where one in four individuals lack these facilities. Such deficiencies endanger public health, hinder growth and increase the threat of water resource contamination.

Seasonal weather variations also significantly affect WASH services, with rural water access dropping by 22 per cent during dry seasons compared to 2 per cent in urban areas.

Acting UNICEF representative to China, Nenad Radonjic, emphasised their commitment to fostering international cooperation on children’s rights and sustainable development goals. He cited the collaboration as a prime example of facilitating knowledge exchange and technical coordination to address shared challenges.

UNICEF Cambodia further highlighted the plight of over a quarter of Cambodia’s population dealing with subpar sanitation conditions due to floods, high groundwater levels, and other obstacles. These circumstances hamper proper sanitation management, including wastewater control.

Government representatives, including the Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation, the Ministry of Rural Development, the Ministry of Public Works and Transport and the Cambodia National Mekong Committee (CNMC), will be joining the delegation in a consultation workshop in Phnom Penh.

Following this, they will visit a ground solar power plant project, a UNICEF-supported decentralised wastewater treatment system in Takeo province, and a sewage treatment plant on the outskirts of the capital.

Subsequent stages of the initiative will entail resource mobilisation, expertise acquisition, and partnerships to realise and expand the project.