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World Toilet Organisation: flushed with ambition

World Toilet Organisation: flushed with ambition

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Russei Keo district, in Phnom Penh.

Representatives of the World Toilet Organisation met in Phnom Penh yesterday in a bid to secure local partners to help prompt the use of lavatories in the Kingdom.

Chief operating officer for the Singapore-based international NGO, Benjie Ng, 56, marked his first visit to Cambodia by explaining that latrines are a taboo subject for many Cambodians, but also people worldwide.

“In every culture, shit is a taboo. You need to talk about it. You need to manage it. It’s time to face it,” Ng said.

The organisation is trying to spur the use of loos in rural areas of the Kingdom, where many families do not have a toilet, in order to improve sanitation.

Ros Khemra, coordinator for International Development Enterprises, a Cambodian NGO which collaborates with the WTO, said yesterday that according the most recent data available, more than 70 percent of the population in rural Cambodia lacked latrines in 2008.

The need for rural latrines was summarised by Kong Bunleang, 26-year-old manager of the WTO’s Cambodia operations.

“Aside from privacy, a toilet provides safety. People don’t have to worry about animals in the bushes.

“They are also good for your health. If you shit [without a toilet] and the rain comes down, it ends up in your drinking water.”

Education is a large part of the WTOs hygiene initiative, said Ng, who admits that one barrier to their programme is convincing rural Cambodians that buying toilets, which cost US$35.50 a piece, are a worthy investment.

“Toilets are important for the home, but also for toilet tourism,” he said.

“If you have a good toilet in hotels, coffee houses, shopping areas, people will come. People get turned off when they see someone squatting in the bushes, and that means business gets turned off too.”

The WTO aims to collaborate with Junior Chamber International Cambodia, an organisation that looks for development opportunities, in an effort to expand a network of toilet outlets – known as SaniShops – from 14 to 24 nationwide.

About 3,200 squat toilets have reached Cambodians through WTO shops in Kampong Chhnang province over the past two years.

Heng Samnang, 31, vice president of JCI, welcomed the proposal and requested a formal agreement be prepared for a board meeting next week.

IDE members yesterday echoed the call for more collaboration regarding rural hygiene education, citing targets set out by the United Nations Millennium Development Goals which aim to provide sanitation coverage for 30 percent of rural areas by 2015, and 100 percent by 2025.

Ros Khemra, coordinator for IDE, said: “Some people might not want our product, but with education, at least they are going to buy a toilet from someone else.”

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