Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Sanitation costs: cash, lives

Sanitation costs: cash, lives

Sanitation costs: cash, lives

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

A World Bank report draws attention to the financial costs of the

Kingdom's poor levels of sanitation and says up to 10,000 lives a year

are needlessly lost

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A child stands next to an overflowing waste bin in Phnom Penh's Phsar Kap Ko last week. Improper disposal of solid waste can contaminate water supplies.

DIARRHOEA and other diseases related to poor sanitation kill nearly 10,000 people a year in Cambodia and cost the Kingdom US$448 million annually, said a recent report from the World Bank's water and sanitation program.

According to the report, which will be officially released on December 9, the costs translate into a per capita loss of US$32, which is equivalent to 7.2 percent of Cambodia's national income.

The report, titled "Economic Impacts of Sanitation in Cambodia 2008", said that in 2005, only 22 percent of Cambodians had access to a latrine, and there were still "more than 11 million Cambodians living with an unimproved latrine or with no latrine at all". The problem is most pronounced in rural Cambodia, where 84 percent of the population lives, but only 16 percent of those can access adequate sanitation.

It is estimated that the number of health cases related to poor sanitation and hygiene in 2005 totaled nearly 9.7 million, with about 10,000 deaths, 67 percent of which were the result of diarrhoea.

"Access to sanitation in Cambodia is lower than the region as a whole. Poor sanitation contributes to bad health, infant mortality and poverty," said Jan Willem Rosenboom, the country team leader of the World Bank's water and sanitation program.

Chea Sophara, minister of rural development, said that only 42 percent of the rural population currently has access to clean water.

Access to sanitation in cambodia is lower than the region as a whole.

"We want all rural people to have clean and safe water to avoid diseases," he said, "By year 2015, we believe 50 percent of rural people will have access to clean water, and by 2025, everyone in the country will have clean water," he said.

"Many people living in the countryside live without proper latrines, so we have to improve their condition," he said, adding that the government has set a goal that by 2015 "30 percent of rural villagers will have adequate latrines, and by 2025 the number will reach to 50 percent".

To solve this problem, government departments are trying to educate people about the importance of proper sanitation. Veng Thai, the director of the Phnom Penh Health Department, said that many of the sanitation problems are the result of ignorance.

"Diarrhoea results from poor sanitation," he said, "We are working step by step to educate people on good sanitation."

Solid waste problems

The report also highlighted the potential waste-management problems in urban areas, particularly at dump sites.

"The official designated dumpsites of solid waste are reaching capacity, particularly in Phnom Penh city where nearly 1,000 tonnes of waste is dumped every day.... The dumpsite may contaminate groundwater quality," the report warns.

"Waste can harm people's health.... Still, some people are not careful about throwing away solid waste," said Sao Kun Chhon, director of Phnom Penh's  waste management program.


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