More than 13,000 poor families and over 81,000 individuals in rural Cambodia have access to hygienic latrines and piped water to their homes under an Australian-funded initiative aimed at improving the health and quality of life of poor households.
Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Output-Based Aid (WASHOBA), a five-year project implemented by East Meets West Foundation (EMW), improved community health in rural areas by increasing sanitation adoption, changing hygiene behaviour and increasing access to clean water. Australian Aid provided a A$1.7 million (US$1.38 million) grant under its Civil Society Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (CS WASH) Fund to cover the program’s implementation in Kratie and Kampong Cham provinces, while a pilot
sanitation project in Prey Veng province was co-financed by 13 commune councils.
Kim Hor, EMW’s country director for Cambodia, said the NGO used the funding to improve health and living standards among poor Cambodians in rural areas. He said the focus of the WASHOBA program, which ended in 2017, was to teach rural poor Cambodians about the health benefits of proper sanitation and hygiene, and explain how to obtain safe water for daily usage.
“We tell them that using safe water offers 27 percent better protection from harmful bacteria and illness,” Hor said. “And if they use hygienic latrines it improves this protection by another 25 percent.”
An additional 48 percent protection comes from washing hands with soap before eating and after using the toilet, he added.
“Once people understood the [health benefits] they were happy to start building latrines with our technical and financial support,” he said. “Then we demonstrated how to use them.”
Hor explained that under the WASHOBA program “people pay the full cost of the latrine, and if they are a poor household and construct and use the new latrine then they receive a small rebate of around 20 Australian dollars,” which works out to just under a third of the cost.
Georgia Davis, EMW’s Regional Knowledge and Learning Manager, said the program tested whether a subsidy that strictly targets poor households would help these families to build and use hygienic latrines faster than other approaches to sanitation. She said the outcomes were positive and provincial governments have requested that EMW extend the initiative.
“Families usually report that having a latrine is safe and convenient, and it means they don’t have to go out into the fields at night to defecate,” Davis said.
She added that improved sanitation is both beneficial to the environment and people’s health, with villagers spending less money on medication to treat diarrhoea and other illnesses common in areas where open defecation is practised.