Alarming statistics on the state of rural sanitation have led the
government to call for cooperation, but critics say money is the issue
A ccording to a recent report by the World Bank, poor sanitation leads to the deaths of nearly 10,000 Cambodians each year and costs the Kingdom US$448 million annually in lost productivity. This translates into a per capita loss of $32.
POOR cooperation between commune and government officials and a lack of government funding have been blamed for the most recent dire statistics on the state of the Kingdom's sanitation.
Chea Sophara, minister of rural development, told a national workshop Wednesday that only 16 percent of people in rural areas have access to toilets.
"Cambodian people's understanding of living in a hygienic environment is still low compared to neighboring countries," Chea Sophara said on Wednesday.
toilets are not the government's priority. therefore, a budget is not made available.
He said that the ministry's goal was to ensure that at least 20 percent of the population in the countryside have access to toilets by the year 2010, and 30 percent by 2015, to reach the millennium development goal. But this would be tough without full cooperation on all levels of government.
"If officials from all departments do not cooperate well with villagers when they are on duty, it will be useless and the development situation will stay the same," he said.
"If the rate of using toilets in the countryside continues to be at such a low level, we will need 30 years to accomplish Cambodia's millennium development goal," he said.
Goals will need money
Chea Samnang, director of the Department of Rural Health Care at the ministry, told the Post that the government would cooperate financially to ensure the goals were reached.
"To encourage people to build toilets, we will not require them to pay. What is important is that we want them to understand [sanitation]," he said.
But Mu Sochua, deputy secretary general of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said a severe lack of funding was exactly the problem.
"The problem is the government's lack of commitment. Toilets are not the government's priority. Therefore, a budget is not made available," she said.
"The role of the government is to make this a priority, as it affects the health of the people and it can save lives - in particular, of the poor, who are mainly women and children," she said. "I believe in Chea Sophara, as he has done good work in the past. But he will need money," she said.