Wateraid Cambodia’s country director Chat Sophiep said about 72 per cent of Cambodians have access to clean water and sanitation, while about 28 per cent still do not have access to clean water.

Meanwhile, officials have put in place a plan to ensure every Cambodian has access to clean water by 2025.

This statement was made during a dialogue on Tuesday initiated by WaterAid with the Club of Cambodian Journalists (CCJ) which was attended by officials from the Ministry of Rural Development and relevant institutions. The purpose of the meeting was to share information about the rural water and sanitation sector in Cambodia.

Sophiep said the government and civil society organisations needed to cooperate to find a solution soon.

“A lack of clean water and sanitation is a barrier to the development of our country on the whole because this problem is related to the public health of our people. The World Bank has found that our people lose millions of dollars a year in healthcare costs,” Sophiep said.

Sophiep added that in order to achieve the planned goals, stakeholders need to establish mechanisms for creating conditions for clean water supplies and sustainable sanitation in rural areas. They also need to increase funding for the water supply and rural sanitation, increase water supply services and encourage people to change their attitudes about water and sanitation.

Rural development ministry secretary of state Chhrun Therawart said at the meeting that rural sanitation is a task that requires the participation of all stakeholders, especially the media, to change the people’s attitudes.

He said the cooperation of the media is very important because this work needs to be completed by 2025.

“Currently, we still have some challenges, such as poverty, and the poor are lacking the ability to connect to clean water services. We need to provide them with access to clean water. Another factor is that indigenous people also have problems. They live in isolation, so it’s difficult to connect them to a clean water system,” he said.

CCJ president Pen Bona urging the media to share information on the clean water issue.

“We are meeting today to share information about the situation of rural water and sanitation in Cambodia and to call on the media to disseminate information about this topic. We want to encourage our people to change their attitudes towards the use of clean water and sanitation in line with the government’s national development policy on water and sanitation,” he said.

WaterAid Cambodia issued a press release during the 73rd World Health Assembly in May saying the poorest people around the world were facing Covid-19 alone without access to the most basic protection, such as clean water and soap.

Health facilities are most likely to be spreaders of the disease, putting the lives of doctors, nurses and midwives at risk while saving patients’ lives. The organisation has supported the government in disseminating and promoting the practice of hand hygiene and other protective measures. But there is also a concern that more than three million Cambodians are lacking clean water and soap in their homes.