Much of Cambodia’s water delivery infrastructure was wrecked by decades of conflict, and its efficiency began to deteriorate in the 1960s. Only 25% of Phnom Penh inhabitants had access to piped water in 1993. Since the mid-1990s, investments have helped provide cleaner water supplies for people in Cambodia; approximately 35-40% of the population now gets its water from better drinking water sources such as new rural wells and reconstructed urban piping infrastructure.
Regrettably, advancements in appropriate sanitation systems have lagged behind. In fact, a lack of sanitation remains a major public health concern. Approximately 10% of Cambodian children die before they reach the age of one year. Many of these deaths are caused by preventable waterborne diseases or mosquito-borne illnesses brought on by the country’s poor sanitation.
Rural sanitation coverage in Cambodia is projected to be only 8%, the lowest in the area and the second lowest outside of Africa, according to UNICEF. In the absence of sanitation facilities, most rural residents dispose of their waste in rice fields, banana groves, and other water sources, damaging the water they rely on.
With the help of numerous foreign partners, the country’s Ministry of Rural Development has launched a rural water supply and sanitation effort. In addition to digging new wells, hundreds of household and school-based latrines have been constructed in recent years to provide rural Cambodians with safe sanitation.
Aid organizations have increased efforts to teach young Cambodians about the importance of appropriate hygiene habits in order to protect them from disease, in addition to providing access to water and sanitation facilities. According to studies, simply washing hands with soap can prevent diarrheal disorders by more than 40%.
As rural Cambodians become more aware of the link between clean water, sanitation, and hygiene, more efforts are being made to protect against water-borne diseases caused by insects. Mosquito screens are being erected on latrine pipes to prevent breeding mosquitoes from escaping and infecting humans. Mosquito nets for the home have also been promoted as a way to protect people and prevent illness spread.
Finally, enclosed water tanks are being used to limit mosquito breeding in stored water, and filtering devices are increasingly being used to remove any parasites or microbials before the water is drank.