Water and Sanitation


Water, sanitation and hygiene delivery

Promoting key hygiene behaviours

Improving water supplies


Promoting key hygiene behaviours

Promoting key hygiene behaviours
© UNICEF Cambodia/Nicolas Axelrod

Creating clean environments for children averts threats to their health and supports the best chance at a prosperous life. Less than 1 in 3 Cambodians have access to latrines and hand washing facilities, one of the lowest rates in Southeast Asia.

According to the World Health Organization diarrhoea continues to be the second leading cause of death among children in East Asia. Nearly 70 per cent of Cambodia’s rural population – roughly 6.4 million people – still practice open defecation as their principle sanitation option. Findings from a 2010 National Sanitation and Hygiene Survey show that only 31.8 per cent of Cambodians use latrines, only 16.7 per cent of Cambodians have a fixed hand washing place in their homes and only 62 per cent of respondents reported practising hand washing. Yet, the use of a toilet can decrease diarrhoeal deaths by 30 per cent and hand washing with soap by more than 40 per cent.

UNICEF’s hygiene awareness and promotion efforts focus on changing behaviour by communicating key hygiene practices such as hand washing with soap, using toilets, treating and drinking safe water. UNICEF works with national and local governments and village leaders to create healthy environments for children that prevent water-borne diseases by leveraging local resources and community solutions to promote good hygiene behaviours.

Children and youth are encouraged to be agents of change in their families and communities through initiatives such as life skills training programmes, curriculum development and integrated sanitation and hygiene education in schools.

Sustainable sanitation technology options are required for areas in the country that are prone to flooding and have a high water table and/or unstable soils. In these areas, conventional technologies like dry pit latrines are not suitable or socially appropriate, often leading to the preference for open defecation, which leads to the contamination of precious water sources. UNICEF and development partners are working to find affordable or cost-effective solutions, which address needs in challenging environments whilst still protecting precious natural resources.

In an effort to reduce disease and child mortality, UNICEF supports the Cambodian Government in mobilizing communities to build their own latrines and attain “Open Defecation Free” status that reduces the risk of diarrhoeal diseases associated with faecal-contaminated water. Studies prove that encouraging use of latrines and reducing or eliminating open defecation is more effective in curbing the rate of child diarrhoea than simply improving the water supply.

What we do

  • Support hygiene awareness and education in schools, health centres and households through construction and/or promotion of latrines and hand washing facilities and appropriate treatment and storage of drinking water, and advocate for the government to ensure these become standard facilities in all schools, health centres and households.
  • Support the development of community facilitators at the local level who are equipped with skills and the necessary promotional materials on sanitation and hygiene to motivate behaviour change and engender commitment within communities.
  • Continue to focus on safe and affordable sanitation in households by supporting community-based approaches such as the community-led total sanitation approach to mobilize communities to attain Open Defecation Free status to prevent contamination of water sources.
  • Support Commune Councils to sustain Open Defecation Free status through commune and village monitoring systems, to develop communication strategies to provide information and education on good sanitation and hygiene in the community, and to raise awareness on sanitation and hygiene issues through events, including World Water Day, National Sanitation Day and Global Hand washing Day.
  • Explore appropriate and affordable options for poor families to get affordable and sustainable sanitation technologies. Globally, partnerships for sustainable sanitation technologies are growing and UNICEF aims to facilitate this knowledge transfer in the context of Cambodia.

Promoting key hygiene behaviours
© UNICEF Cambodia/Nicolas Axelrod


Cleaner environments translate into optimal living and learning conditions for children. According to the 2009/2010 Education Management Information System, approximately 79.3 per cent of primary schools had latrines that improved children’s ability to focus on learning. In addition, since 2006, approximately 20 per cent of 4,140 villages have implemented the community-led total sanitation approach without outside financial or material support. Of these, 50 per cent have declared “Open Defecation Free” status, meaning every family has built and used their own latrines.

An evaluation conducted in 2009 confirmed that communityled total sanitation is effective in raising awareness and motivating communities to stop open defecation. Efforts will continue to sustain the results through promotion of sanitation marketing, ensuring availability of affordable sanitation options and strengthening hygiene promotion, particularly hand washing with soap at critical times.





Community-led total sanitation

Community-led total sanitation is an approach led by the community to achieve better sanitation. Communities are supported by trained facilitators to analyse the sanitation situation of their villages and to engender commitment and create action plans to become Open Defecation Free and to do this through their own efforts.

This approach fosters innovation and commitment within the community and motivates people to build their own sanitation infrastructure, without depending on external financial or material assistance.


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