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Stories of #GoodChange

July 2022

Hope for Hygiene:
Water & Sanitation for Cambodia

A good life for children begins with taking care of their health. But in rural and isolated Cambodia, where many people live in poverty, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. The repercussions of children not taking care of their health can be long-lasting. It leaves them more at risk to respiratory infections and diseases such as diarrhoea – which can cause long term physical and mental impairment such as stunting.

Approximately 77% of Cambodians live in the rural countryside, relying on agriculture as a means of survival. In areas such as these, access to safe water and sanitation is poor – communities rely on rainfall for water, although these are usually stored in cement structures that can increase the spread of mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue.

Cambodian Children washing hands
children washing hands for hygiene

Nearly 3 million people in Cambodia are exposed to diseases such as dengue fever and diarrhoea. Cambodia has one of the highest infection rates of dengue in Southeast Asia, which can cause flu-like symptoms, and severe complications associated with bleeding, organ impairment or even death if not managed appropriately. Sadly, diarrhoea is also the leading cause of death in children under 5 years of age.

Open defecation is also an issue in poverty affected areas, where most toilets are either broken, without running water or there is poor access to them. Communities have no choice but to defecate in the fields, in open bodies of water or other spaces – which creates detrimental effects on health.

In 2018, Good Neighbours Cambodia conducted a survey on WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) practices in 85 schools and found that 74% of children didn't even know the six steps to washing their hands

More than 50% of Cambodians don't have access to a proper toilet.
Without the means to do so, children aren't able to take care of their hygiene.

Good health also begins with children taking care of their hygiene. But in some areas of rural Cambodia, there is no access to clean running water or soap for children to wash their hands properly. Many children aren’t even aware of the importance of taking care of their personal hygiene and tend to consume food with dirty hands. The result is repeated bouts of diarrhoea, and possibly even stunted growth.
Chat Savy, a grade six student from Battambang Province in the northwest, says that she only learnt how to wash her hands properly with soap and water at the age of 9 years old. Most children in developed countries know how to do this at the age of 3. “No one…taught me,” she says, “My parents just did it a simple way.”
The Battambang province where Chat Savy lives has a poverty rate of more than 75% – a sobering reminder of how far behind people in Cambodia’s countryside are compared to their city counterparts. Families are even more exposed to diseases and impaired physical growth. And without good health, they find it difficult to escape generational poverty.
In some rural areas of Cambodia, nearly all communities live in poverty

About 32% of children in Cambodia are stunted

WASH Kits provided by Good Neighbours Australia to children in Cambodia
Stunting, for example, is a real problem in rural Cambodia. About 32% of children are stunted, causing problems in school and later in life. Not only is a stunted child shorter than average but limited in their ability to perform well in school. This is because stunting can cause impaired growth and brain development, as well as health risks such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity later in life.

What your donation goes towards

Good Neighbours Australia tackles the roots of poverty by protecting children’s health

At Good Neighbours Australia, we tackle the roots of poverty by ensuring children are healthy enough to attend school. Providing a holistic approach, we teach children from as young as 4 years old the basics such as the 6 steps of washing their hands with soap and water and provide them with items their families can’t afford – such as a toothbrush, toothpaste and soap. Schools are also provided with funds to build toilets and sanitation facilities as well as equipment to provide clean and safe running water

Hope for Hygiene Project

For more information on our Hope for Hygiene Project please click on the link below.