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By Dr. Chea Samnang
While national access to improved rural water supply and sanitation currently covers around 50% in Cambodia, WASH stakeholders still agreed during a meeting on 1 July in Phnom Penh that significant increases in coverage can be achieved in the years to come.
The key, they said, was to develop strong synergies between the government’s leadership, captured in the current National Action Plan for Rural Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene 2014-2018 (NAP), and the work of national and international development partners, including WSSCC to support the Ministry of Rural Development as a lead of Rural Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene sector.
The latter was in focus at the SUNWAY Hotel for a day-long consultation organized by Dr. Chea Samnang, WSSCC National Coordinator in Cambodia, in collaboration with Ministry of Rural Development, and with support from Mr. Chim Charanay, advisor to the National Coordinator.
The workshop, one of 16 country-hosted events from June to August, will help inform and direct WSSCC’s 2017-2020 strategy development process and its work in Cambodia during the same period.
It offered government officials, WASH development partners (including the GSF-supported Cambodia Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Improvement Programme), WSSCC members, and the media time and space to discuss and debate WSSCC’s relevance and purpose in the country.
According to the National Action Plan, roughly half of the country’s14 million people still lack access to improved rural water supply and sanitation. Also, wide access disparities exist between rural and urban areas, and by the poor and the better-off. Even though the increased coverage of rural communities have access to sanitation, but the rural sanitation coverage, in particular, is currently the lowest in Southeast Asia; over 50 percent of the rural population across 25 provinces practice open defecation.
In addition, the plan states “Lack of adequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities and practices has many negative consequences, especially for the rural poor. Six out 10 reported diseases in Cambodia are water-borne diseases. Poor sanitation and hygiene may be responsible for 10,000 deaths annually, mainly among children. The economic losses associated with these conditions is estimated to be over seven percent of Cambodia’s gross domestic product (GDP), or US$32 per person.”
In his presentation on the government’s WASH vision, including the expectations from WSSCC, Mr. Chreay Pom, Director of Department of Rural Health Care, Ministry of Rural Development, said that institutional capacity building, finance, hygiene behaviour change and service delivery were welcome from the Council.
He noted that the NAP was clear in its objectives and priority actions, many of which WSSCC could support. He also noted that since the mid-1990s, the rural sanitation rate has increased from 10% and is still accelerating. Still, to achieve the target of 60% national coverage by 2018 – and full coverage during the SDG era – more acceleration is required.
WSSCC has aided this effort, through Global Sanitation Fund (GSF) support provided to Plan Cambodia to implement the Cambodian Rural Sanitation Hygiene Implementation Program (CRSHIP). Ms. Angela Padilla of Plan Cambodia described how the programme has enabled nearly 430,000 people to be accessing improved toilets, and 1.63 million to be using handwashing facilities, since it was established in 2011. A recent extension will take the programme to 2019 and includes an advanced approach to real-time learning (led by WaterAid), adaptation and monitoring to improve implementation progress.
Like each national consultation, the Cambodia meeting explored challenges that affect the WASH sector nationally and WSSCC’s work. Therefore, it was key to obtain the strategic choices/priorities facing WSSCC and what national members/stakeholders would want to see included and, indeed, prioritized in the final strategy paper of the Council.
As such, the focus of the consultation was rooted in national issues and interpretation of targets against Goal 6 on Water and Sanitation in the Sustainable Development Goal agenda, and more specifically target 6.2 on equitable, sustainable sanitation and hygiene
Each national consultation is, naturally, contextualized. Some of the core issues brought up in Phnom Penh included whether WSSCC could support scaling up and sustaining improved sanitation and hygiene in Cambodia – including the WASH-nutrition interface; WASH governance; knowledge sharing; equity in sanitation and hygiene, for everyone, everywhere; and monitoring and evaluation to help more effectively track progress against national targets – especially for people marginalised by gender, age, disability or physical location.