Providing children with clean drinking water and adequate toilets, and instilling in them the need to wash their hands with soap and water, are the most effective ways of saving their lives and ensuring they develop into healthy adults. Diarrhoea, which often results from poor sanitation and hygiene, is a major cause of children’s illnesses, including stunting and impaired brain development.
Cambodia is making steady but insufficient progress in meeting water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) targets. Despite improvements in WASH systems and practices, Cambodia has the highest rate of open defecation in the region, with eight in ten of the poorest rural Cambodians defecating out in fields, in open bodies of water, or other open spaces, rather than using a toilet. This continues to be a dangerous challenge, as human waste near waterways and houses spreads diseases quickly and puts children and their families at risk.
One in three Cambodians uses water from a non-improved drinking source, which means they do not hygienically separate human waste from human contact. Seven in ten pre-primary schools do not have access to WASH facilities, and one in two rural healthcare facilities does not have sufficient water all year around.
Children continue to be stunted and to die from preventable sanitation- and water-related causes, because they do not have access to clean water, toilets and hand-washing facilities in their communities and schools. Particularly in rural areas, people have very limited understanding of the importance of proper sanitation and hygiene.