Cambodia is a Southeastern Asian country known for drastically decreasing its poverty rates from 47.8% of the population in 2007 to 13.5% in 2014. Despite a reduction in poverty rates, Cambodia suffers from a drinking water crisis due to a lack of sanitation. The consequences of this crisis are life-threatening, however, a number of organizations are fighting Cambodia’s drinking water crisis to maintain its climb to prosperity.
Cambodia’s Drinking Water Crisis
One in three Cambodians drinks water from a non-improved or non-reliable source. While the country has improved in sanitation, this improvement is primarily present in urban areas such as Phnom Penh, which is Cambodia’s capital. Basic sanitation in urban areas increased from 49% to 88% in 2015, but only 39% of the rural population has basic sanitation, and only 24% drink water from a clean, regulated water source. Children in rural areas are also two times more likely to drink from contaminated drinking sources than urban children. Seeing as how 61% of the Cambodian population lives in rural areas, it is clear that the majority of the population is suffering.
Moreover, eight in 10 Cambodians living in rural areas defecate in open bodies of water due to a lack of toilets, according to UNICEF. This open defecation leads to coliform and E. coli, which are both disease-causing bacteria, in drinking water. Sadly, diarrhea contributes to most of the under-five child deaths in Cambodia and can lead to stunted and impaired brain development.
Starting its work in Cambodia in 2014, Water.org is a global nonprofit that brings clean water and sanitation to countries around the world. The organization uses microfinance, which is a service provided to those who usually don’t have access to banking or financial services. Water.org, through its WaterCredit Initiative program, partners with financial institutions willing to supply small loans to locals. These locals then use the loans to install toilets in their homes so they no longer have to defecate in open bodies of water.
The organization had a goal of reaching 300,000 Cambodians in three years, but they met the goal in two. Overall, in Cambodia, Water.org has reached 1.9 million people, disbursed 435,000 loans and achieved an average repayment rate of 99%.
Cambodians Community Dream Organization (CCDO)
Working in Cambodia for 15 years, the Cambodian Community Dream Organization (CCDO) aids villages surrounding Siem Reap through its Clean Water program. Through the program, the organization has provided ceramic filters as an alternative to boiling to save fuel, hygiene workshops to educate locals on the importance of hand-washing and over 1,500 water wells.
The most notable part of the CCDO’s work is its water well repair program. The CCDO does not believe in building wells and does not consider the future damages to the wells. Instead, they provide a program that works to regularly examine, replace or fix worn wells.
In addition to the Clean Water program, the organization has also installed 600 latrines since January 2014.
Formed in 2010, Clear Cambodia is a local NGO that recognizes the consequences of E. Coli infections. The organization emphasizes how they are a program run for Cambodians by Cambodians. The organization has impacted 2,527,628 Cambodians through its projects.
Clear Cambodia is famous for fighting against Cambodia’s drinking water Crisis through their household biosand filters. Biosand filters are an adaptation to sand filters found in nature as the sand and gravel remove pathogens and other solids from water. Biosand filters can remove up to 98.5% of bacteria from contaminated drinking water. Clear Cambodia has provided 339,662 biosand filters to households and an additional 1,547 biosand filters to schools. In addition to these filters, the organization has also allocated 236,140 handwashing tools, installed 11,206 household latrines, implemented 1,539 handwashing stations and provided 212 wells.
A Better Future
As Cambodia’s poverty rates decrease, its drinking water crisis does not seem too far behind. Cambodia’s government is committed to reaching 100% coverage of rural sanitation services by 2025, as evidenced by a bold 14-year plan drawn out in 2011. With organizations like Water.org, the CCDO and Clear Cambodia doing their part to fight the drinking water crisis, there is great optimism that the nation will make it through this challenge in good time.
– Blanly Rodriguez