Preah Sihanouk has been declared Open Defecation Free (ODF), bringing the total number of ODF provinces in Cambodia to seven as of June 13, following plans to expedite the completion of ODF status in 2022.

Minister of Rural Development Chhay Rithisen said at the event that the province has improved living conditions by enhancing the provision of clean water and sanitation services.

He said this progress has encouraged the local population to switch from drinking unsafe water to safe water and to transition from open defecation to using proper toilets, thereby fostering a more civilised lifestyle.

“As of today, there are seven ODF provinces, including Preah Sihanouk. We are very proud that Preah Sihanouk has achieved ODF status. This achievement means that in Preah Sihanouk, every household has a toilet or a shared toilet,” he added. 

Provinces that achieved the status previously include Svay Rieng, Prey Veng, Kandal, Kampong Speu, Kampong Chhnang and Kep. 

Rithisen stated earlier this month that all provinces will have achieved the status by the end of the 7th mandate.

He said the ministry is currently implementing a national action plan on water supply and urban and rural sanitation, with plans to achieve 100 per cent coverage by 2030. He noted that the current level has reached 86.6 per cent.

The minister expressed strong belief that the provincial administration and all stakeholders would continue to participate and promote rural water supply and sanitation, particularly finding ways to maintain ODF sustainability to achieve the 2030 vision.

“We must continue to work harder to solve challenges and support people in remote villages, poor families and people living in challenging environments,” he said.

Provincial governor Kuoch Chamroeun stated that all households in Preah Sihanouk now have access to toilets, with 95.9 per cent using private toilets and 4.1 per cent utilsing shared toilets.

"Completion of ODF status in the province includes five towns and districts, 29 communes and 111 villages, with a total of 51,503 households. Among these, 49,391 use private toilets and 2,112 use shared toilets," he said.

He reported that recent environmental sanitation verification in the province showed a complete absence of human faeces, including that of children, in open areas and 100 per cent ODF status, with no nappies, scattered medical waste or garbage in the villages that can adversely affect human health. Additionally, 99 per cent of the area was found to be in good environmental hygiene condition.

Plan International cooperates with the ministry and provincial authorities to strategise and improve rural sanitation.

Yi Kim Than, executive director of Plan International Cambodia PIC), stated that the country has made great progress in ending the practice of open defecation in rural areas, reducing the number of households practicing open defecation from 98 per cent in 2000 to 14 per cent today.

He said that people, including the poor and most vulnerable, now have access to and use improved toilets.

“Changing habits and practicing good hygiene are not easy, but it is crucial to address these bad habits. Achieving ODF status has contributed to the reduction of childhood diseases and malnutrition, which affect the development, growth and learning of children who play an important role in building human capital for the future,” he said.

Kim Than added that the rate of children under the age of five with growth stunting in the province dropped from 33 per cent to 24 per cent in 2021-2022, a rate higher than the national average of 22 per cent. Therefore, he believes that the achievement of ODF will significantly reduce the rate of stunting in the future.

He expects that the province will update its data and strengthen cooperation with all levels of authorities and relevant institutions to ensure the sustainability of ODF in the province, aiming to achieve the highest level (ODF+) in the future.

He also hopes that five other provinces supported by PIC – Kampong Cham, Tbong Khmum, Siem Reap, Ratanakkiri and Stung Treng – will achieve ODF status this year, with other provinces following in 2025.