Siem Reap provincial authorities and several partner organisations have announced their joint commitment to achieve open defecation free (ODF) status across the province by early 2024. More than 80 per cent of the province has been declared ODF thus far.

The commitment was made at a February 16 meeting on action planning and procedural reinforcement for the working group to end ODF. The meeting was attended by provincial authorities, civil society officials and the Ministry of Rural Development.

Touch Mala, director of the provincial Department of Rural Development, described the sanitation situation in Siem Reap.

“As of December 30, just 36,118 homes of the 248,490 in the province’s 12 district-level divisions lacked pour-flush toilets,” he said.

Mala noted that provincial authorities faced several challenges, chief among them a lack of budget.

“ODF verification requires the support of partner organisations. In some provinces, leaders are less attentive to the issue, or lack the technical skills to implement better sanitation.

“There are also geographical challenges posed by floating houses, flooded areas, mountains, and other remote hard-to-access locations,” he continued.

He encouraged all stakeholders to work together to mobilise financial resources from development partners, especially for sanitation work in remote rural communities.

Plan International Cambodia deputy director Yi Kimthan said: “Discussions are underway to accelerate ODF plans. Despite some districts near the Tonle Sap Lake suffering flooding, we believe we will achieve province-wide ODF verification by next year.

“Although some flood-prone districts find it difficult to build pour-flush toilets, we are urging the construction of specialised facilities. We are confident that we will declare the province ODF-free by early 2024 at the very latest,” he added.