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Ending toilet troubles in rural Cambodia

Almost two-thirds of people living in Cambodia’s rural communities do not have access to a toilet, and more than 7 million Cambodians still practise open defecation. Lack of proper sanitation facilities increases the risk of disease. With nowhere safe or private to go to the toilet, girls face additional challenges around safety and dignity. This is an ongoing reality for many girls living in rural Cambodia, but things have now improved for Romduol and Sreypouv.

“I was bitten by an ant once, when I went to the toilet in the bush,” says 11-year-old Romduol.

“I used to clean myself with leaves from plants, and sometimes I wouldn`t wash my hands afterwards. As a result, I often got diarrhoea and would have to go to the health centre,” Romduol explains.

Since starting programs in Svay Rieng province in 2008, ChildFund Cambodia has been supporting local communities to construct bathrooms and raise awareness about good sanitation and hygiene practices.

To date, ChildFund has supported the construction of more than 4,000 toilets in Svay Rieng; and has strengthened the capacity of youth, local authorities and the Village Development Committee to lead on sanitation and hygiene education for the community, and improve their access to clean water.

Prior to the construction of a toilet at her home, 15-year-old Sreypouv had to dig a hole in a local field, and use a leaf from a tree to clean herself.

“When I had no toilet, I used to take a hoe and a bowl of water down to the field, I was always afraid of snakes, pigs and people walking past,” says Sreypouv.

Without a bathroom, Sreypouv also had no place to bathe or have a proper shower.

“I used to have to wash myself in the field€¦ this always made me scared that someone would see me.”

The process of going to the bathroom and bathing can be very challenging for young girls living in rural areas. To bathe, girls often need to go to a public well, or nearby stream or river, before sunset. This is because after dark it can be unsafe, due to wild animals or unwanted attention from boys.

Romduol, Sreypouv and other community members are now able to use the bathrooms in their community for going to the toilet, showering and washing clothes.

“Now that I have a bathroom, I feel comfortable and have no fear, My grandma now also boils water for me to use, so I rarely get diarrhoea these days,” says Romduol.

Sreypouv agrees: “When a bathroom was built at my home, I was so glad because now it`s much easier to go to the toilet and bathe.”

ChildFund supports Goal 6 of the Global Goals, which says by 2030, everyone must have access to adequate sanitation and hygiene! #globalgoals #WorldToiletDay #wecantwait

[Statistics taken from: Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water – 2015 update and MDG Assessment (UNICEF & WHO)]

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