by Mom Chantara Soleil
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The Global Sanitation Fund announced a renewed pledge of 5 million US dollar to boost Cambodia’s rural sanitation – the commitment executed by Plan International Cambodia in collaboration with the Ministry of Rural Development.
“The amount is not that big compared to the investment from the communities themselves. As we put in 5 million US dollars, the communities contribute 20 million US dollars,” said Mr. Christopher W. Williams, the Executive Director of the United Nations-based Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC)/Global Sanitation Fund, in May 22 press conference in Phnom Penh Capital, Cambodia.
Asked where those poor rural communities get the money from for the investment, Mr. Williams explained the calculation: “Through our awareness raising, communities decide to build latrine and consistently improve personal hygiene. They consequently are healthy and don’t have to waste time and spend money on medication. Their investment for improved sanitation the huge contribution I mentioned.”
“They agreed that it’s a good investment because the good practice can easily prevent them from wasting resources on an array of faecally transmissible and potentially deadly diseases,” he added.
With initial funding of around 5 million US dollars from the Global Sanitation Fund since 2011, the collaboration between Plan Cambodia and Ministry of Rural Development enabled positive progress toward open defecation free in 2,000 villages in more than a fifth provinces of Cambodia where lack of improved sanitation facilities are most critical.
According to Mr. Supriyanto, Country Director of Plan Cambodia, a major factor for the country’s child death – which remains relatively high, despite significant decrease to 54 per 1000 live births – is diarrhea caused by poor sanitation.
“As a child centred organisation, Plan takes into account the issue seriously and improving rural sanitation using community-led total sanitation approach is one of our top priorities,” added Mr. Supriyanto.
Plan Cambodia’s experience shows that positive behavior change is key to sustain improved rural sanitation. Without mutual support and intimate cooperation with communities, government and local partners, the behavior change would not be able to attain.
“The communities are untapped resources. As they are empowered and their behavior is changed, they can do anything with their own resources. Having no latrine does not mean that they cannot afford it. The issue lies on whether or not they believe that having a latrine is necessary. And they should not be underestimated,” said Mr. Supriyanto.
The new funding commitment from GSF will expand effort of Plan Cambodia in improving rural sanitation beyond the current five southern provinces. By 2015 an estimated 1.2 million rural Cambodians will have improved their sanitation practice and benefited from a defecation free environment.
For every dollar invested in improved sanitation up to nine dollars are returned in economic benefits through health-cost savings and improved productivity, said WSSCC/GSF press release.