The number of Cambodian rural households with access to latrines increased from 23 to 33 per cent in 2013, a Ministry of Rural Development report released yesterday says.
Chreay Pom, director of the ministry’s rural health care department, said that last year, the ministry constructed about 1,800 facilities in six provinces: Battambang, Preah Sihanouk, Koh Kong, Kampot, Svay Reing and Takeo.
“Although we noticed that the [latrine coverage] in rural areas has increased … we still have the challenge that most people in rural areas depend on agencies to build latrines. They do not [feel] responsible to build them by themselves, [and] our budget is limited,” said Pom.
Last year, sanitation funding from the Asian Development Bank and the national budget totalled $679,000, Pom added.
In 2012, Cambodia scored the lowest in toilet coverage out of all East Asian countries, according to UNICEF.
High child mortality rates in Cambodia, UNICEF says, are largely due to diseases caused by unsanitary conditions.
Battambang’s rural area department director Sok Van Eun said that sanitation improvement in his province would continue in 2014 after 250 toilets were built in 2013.
“But we hope [the population] is willing to build latrines by themselves. It [does not cost] much. We do need modern latrines in the city, [but] the cheap latrine also protects from viruses and diarrhea,” Van Eun said.
Ministry officials also educated more than 10,000 people throughout the country about health and sanitation related to latrines, as awareness of the benefits of such facilities tends to be low among rural populations, officials said.
“They refrain from building latrines because they think it costs too much money and is not important. [They leave] open defecation behind the house and [in the] wild. They have to change this idea, because it is very important for [their] health,” said Hok Boty, director of Svay Reing’s rural areas department.
Last year, Boty added, his department encouraged villagers to build new toilets for 100 families.