© UNICEF Cambodia/Nicolas Axelrod
Lack of water and sanitation is one of the biggest issues affecting the health of children across Cambodia, particularly those who live in the countryside. Too many children are still denied the most basic rights to safe water, the dignity of using a toilet and the simple practice of washing hands with soap. The consequences for children are severe, as high occurrences of diarrhoea, skin disease, respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia, intestinal and other waterborne and excreta-related diseases cast a shadow over child health and in many cases, result in death. High incidences of diarrhoeal diseases alone account for one fifth of the deaths of children age five and under in Cambodia, and an estimated 10,000 overall deaths annually, largely owing to lack of sanitation and poor hygiene practices.
Improving hygiene through use of latrines and hand washing with soap, protecting water sources from faecal contamination, ensuring sustainable sources of water, as well as monitoring water quality remain key challenges for Cambodia.
Disparities in access to water and sanitation between urban and rural areas, across and within provinces and among different wealth groups are clear. People living in urban areas of the country have three times more access to sanitation than those living in rural and peri-urban areas, diarrhoea prevalence is five times greater in some regions than others, and the rich have 22 times more access to piped water than the poor.
UNICEF believes there are many solutions to these issues and is working with the government to harness innovative approaches and new ideas to address the long-standing problems of low sanitation coverage, unsustained usage of toilets and poor water quality. However, more must be done to put these solutions into action through initiatives that build the capacity of local people to ensure these basic services and facilities are available, affordable and appropriate, and that they remain operational over the long-term.
UNICEF promotes a package of appropriate, affordable sanitation, water and hand washing facilities in schools, health centres and households, which meet the specific needs of communities. UNICEF programmes promote water, sanitation and hygiene ‘ladders’, which introduce basic technologies that may be upgraded when families can afford to do so.
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