Five provinces in northeast Cambodia still have a high percentage of households without a toilet, while the majority of households in Svay Rieng, Prey Veng, Battambang, Kandal, and Phnom Penh have access to toilets, according to the findings of the recent population census.
Officials say they expect that Cambodia will reach the status of “Open Defecation Free” (ODF) by 2025.
Across the Kingdom, 82.8 per cent of the more than 3.55 million households now possess a toilet, while 17.2 per cent do not.
These percentages – from the 2019 census results released last month – are a drastic improvement from the 14.5 per cent of households with a toilet in 1998 and 33.7 per cent in 2008.
The five provinces which have the highest percentage of households without toilets are Ratanakkiri at 48.8 per cent; Stung Treng at 47.2 per cent; Preah Vihear at 46.8 per cent; Mondulkiri at 44 per cent; and Kratie at 38.6 per cent.
The four provinces with the lowest percentage of households without toilets are Svay Rieng at 7.9 per cent; Prey Veng at 8.6 per cent; Battambang at 10.4 per cent; Kandal at 11 per cent. Phnom Penh has the lowest percentage in the country at 6.1 per cent.
Lun Sayteng, chief of the Ministry of Rural Development’s rural healthcare department, told The Post on February 16 that there is a higher percentage of household with toilets in the four provinces thanks to a programme designed by the ministry with partner NGOs that had focused on them.
“We motivated the people and urged them to understand the issue, and their living conditions have improved. They work in factories and earn money to spend on the construction of toilets which cost less than $100 each. Because when they go to work at the factory they have a toilet there, so when they go back home they [should not have] to live without toilets,” Sayteng said.
He said that for the provinces with lower percentages of toilet use, it was partly due to difficulties in transporting materials for construction of toilets and the presence of many poor people. He said geographical conditions such as floods or droughts could also contribute to lower percentages for toilet access.
Yi Kimthan, deputy country director for Plan International Cambodia, said some residents in the north-eastern provinces may think that toilets are not important because they can defecate in the forest.
“These locations are in rural areas where there are still forests where they can defecate. Moreover, they are farming away from their homes all day. So they don’t build toilets at home because they spend around six months in their fields,” he said.
Kimthan added that high costs for construction and transportation of material also played a role and that his organisation is working in Ratanakkiri and Stung Treng provinces on this issue.
He said that in the four provinces with a high percentage of access to toilets, residents have more information on sanitation and enjoyed better living conditions overall. For people living in those areas, having toilet facilities can also be a matter of maintaining a good reputation when receiving guests. These provinces are also the easiest locations for access to construction materials.
Nevertheless, Sayteng says Cambodia expects to achieve ODF status by 2025 and that currently his ministry and partner NGOs are focusing their efforts to achieve ODF for Prey Veng, Svay Rieng, Kampong Chhnang, Kep and Kampong Speu provinces by 2023.