Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

Providing clean water for schools in Cambodia

In Chhloung district, in rural Cambodia, a lack of access to clean water and proper sanitation facilities mean children and their families are highly susceptible to disease. This is because people are forced to use unsafe water from damaged wells or fetch dirty water from local creeks. They must also go to the toilet in the forest, use leaves instead of toilet paper and wash their hands with water from rice fields rather than with soap.

“I need to carry 20 litres of water with a barrel and walk around 1km from the creek to my home twice a day,” says 12-year-old Yin Meas (pictured above), who lives in a remote, mountainous area of Chhloung, located about 27km from the closet main road. “Sometimes I fall down and injure my arm and leg and break the barrel. I used to get typhoid and had to go to the health centre several times last year,” he adds.

For young children, diseases like typhoid, hepatitis and diarrhoea can be fatal. Rath Eav, the commune vice-chief of Yin Meas` village says: “Most people, especially children, in this village get diseases related to stomach and intestine problems.” She explains that this is mainly caused by lack of access to clean water and proper sanitation facilities.

The toilet at Sopheany’s school is out of order for half of the year

“The majority of people, around 90 per cent, in this village do not have a toilet nor a well. Some share with those who do have a well and some go to the nearby creek and carry water home. The wells in our village are very old and consist of rust that contaminates the water,” Rath Eav says.

Water is also a major problem for schools in Chhloung. Instead of spending their time learning at school, many children must help collect water. “The well at my school doesn`t work, so we need to ask students to work in shifts to get water from the creek for general use at school and for the school toilet,” says primary school teacher Ms Pech.

Watch to see how students at this school are already benefiting from this project

“We really need a clean water system for our school to educate students about sanitation and hygiene, and to keep them and our community healthy,” she says.

Lack of access to water and sanitation not only affects children`s health but for many girls also their education. Shared or no access to toilets is a common reason for young girls to drop out of school.

The toilet at 14-year-old Sopheany`s school has no water during summer, which means it is out of action for half the year. Students have no other choice than to go to the field or forest nearby. “Sometimes I feel shy to go in the forest during class time, so I skip it until I return back home after class,” says Sopheany.

ChildFund Cambodia, who has been working in Chhloung district since 2011, is helping to provide better access to safe water and proper sanitation facilities for children at school. By consulting with communities, ChildFund has developed a project focused on toilets, wells and hand washing facilities at school so children can focus on their education instead of the need to fetch water.

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