“Before ChildFund came to our village, I lost two sons because of unsafe water from the creek,” says 40-year-old Sok Ren from Kratie province in rural Cambodia. “One was four years old and my other son was only three months old.”
Sitting next to his wife, Vun Rom, on a bamboo bed in front of their small cottage, Sok Ren describes how he lost both his children.
“In the village we traditionally used and drank dirty water from the creek. It was a parasite in the water that caused one of my sons to get malaria and the other to get diarrhoea,” he says.
“I had no money and the health centre was a long way away from us so my sons passed away.”
Sok Ren and his wife live in Damrei Phong commune. Villagers from this area travel hours through forest, along rocky mountain roads to reach the closest district centre, located more than 30km away.
Before ChildFund’s water project began, people found water sources at the creek, from rain and through a few old open or tube wells in the village. Most did not understand the importance of hygiene and never used a toilet.
“A decade ago, at least four to five children died every year, mostly because of malaria and diarrhoea,” says Mr Hom Ly, vice-village chief, who lost three of his own children to these preventable diseases.
“However, the situation is getting better with the support of ChildFund’s water and sanitation project,” he says. “The rate of child sickness has decreased from 60 per cent to 20 per cent after four new wells were constructed in our village.”