Thursday, December 26, 2013

Water and Sanitation: A Right for All

Steng Hen at Preak Krabao Primary School
Peam Chor district of Prey Veng
The lack of access to water and sanitation is one of the biggest issues affecting Cambodian children, especially in rural areas.  Access to separate toilet and sanitation facilities at schools has been proven to improve the attendance of girls.  When two primary schools in Preh Veng province, 90 kilometers from Cambodia’s capitol, Phnom Penh, recently received water supply tanks, toilets and hygiene facilities from UNICEF, the communities gathered for the inauguration ceremonies.

Preak Krabao Primary School

Meet Steng Hen, age 7, from Peam Chor district in the province of Prey Veng.  She is a student at the Preak Krabao primary school.  Her favorite topic is algebra and she wants to become a teacher when she grows up.  Steng Hen attended the inauguration of UNICEF’s new water supply tank, toilets and sanitation facilities of her primary school.  “I am happy to have somewhere to go to the toilet, separated from the boys,” Steng Hen shares.  Before the units were built, she used to wash her hands with the other students in the river after defecating in the field a few meters away.

Now Steng Hen always washes her hands with soap after using the toilet at school.  At home, she reports, that they do have a toilet, although they do not often buy soap.

Separate toilets for girls and boys in Peam Chor District, Prey Veng province

Hand washing with soap drastically reduces diarrhea, skin disease, pneumonia and other deadly diseases.  With the school leading the way in helping the children to adopt healthy hygiene behaviors, the ultimate goal is to have the message spread back to the community.

Angkor Ang I Primary School

Angkor Ang I is another school which recently installed a new water supply tank and hygiene facilities provided by UNICEF.  At the well-attended inauguration ceremony community leaders explained that the onus is on the community now to protect their water resources, strengthen their engagement on the topic of sanitation and encourage the use of toilets to eliminate the practice of open defecation.

Sart Len, age 6, is happy to have toilets and access to
Clean water.  She does not yet have a toilet at home.
Prey Veng (meaning Long Forest in Khmer) is a densely populated region, dependent on agriculture and is among the largest areas devoted to rice cultivation in Cambodia.  Farming relies on the weather, and recurrent floods have recently devastated the already impoverished area.  Most people live in stilted houses and the cost for elevated toilets makes them unaffordable for most families.

The elevated toilets of a house in Peam Chor near the
Angkor Ang I Primary School.  These toilets cost around
$300 - $400 because of how they are situated above ground.
This family’s home is situated right next to Angkor Ang I Primary school. Only 10-year-old Yourn Rayout has access to clean water and hygienic toilets during the school hours. Most children return to homes, which do not have basic toilets or clean water supplies.

The Yourn family does not have toilets at home.  Only the son goes to
Angkor Ang I Primary School.  His 5-year-old sister, Yourn Chariya
will be old enough to attend next year.  Mother:  Min Port, Father: Yourn Youl
Son (age 10):  Yourn Rayout, Daughters: Yourn Chariya (age 5) and
Yourn Peaktra (4 months)

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