Nearly Half of Cambodians Lack Access to Safe Water

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A boy drinking polluted water in a floating village in the middle of Cambodia’s Tonle Sap 'Great Lake,' March 26, 2013.
A boy drinking polluted water in a floating village in the middle of Cambodia’s Tonle Sap 'Great Lake,' March 26, 2013.

Nearly half the population of Cambodia does not have access to safe water and basic sanitation, a U.N. agency said Friday ahead of World Water Day, calling on the authorities to give greater attention to improving rural water supply in the impoverished country.

Some 6.3 million out of 14.9 million Cambodians are unable to access clean drinking water, most of them poor and living in rural areas, the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF said in a statement marking the Saturday event.

Improving the quality of rural water would help accelerate Cambodia’s social and economic development, it said, urging authorities to make greater commitments and investments to tackling the issue.

“Attention to rural water supply, sanitation, and hygiene will unquestionably deliver results—less child deaths, better learning at school, less disease, more productive workers, less health costs for the people and the system,” UNICEF’s Cambodia representatives Rana Flowers said.

“These services are central to Cambodia’s future as a middle-income country,” she said.

40 percent in rural areas

UNICEF Cambodia’s spokesman Meas Bunly told RFA’s Khmer Service that some 40 percent of Cambodians in rural areas have access to clean water, compared to 80 percent in the capital Phnom Penh.  

The main reason millions of Cambodians lack access to clean water is that the government has made other development areas a higher priority, he said.

“The government has many priorities in terms of development such as infrastructure and other areas, so sometime it hasn’t been focused on clean water and sanitation,” he said.

Local authorities in rural areas often place more importance on building new roads and schools than they do on improving water supply in their areas, he said.  

Boosting water supply “is a vital factor which allows people to be healthy and contribute to the development of the country,” he said. 

Children vulnerable

The lack of access to clean water leaves Cambodian children vulnerable to diseases such as diarrhea, which is the second leading cause of death among children under five, according to UNICEF.

The problem is costing money and lives in Cambodia, and in order to improve health outcomes, authorities should also pay attention to improving sanitation in both households and public institutions, the agency said.  

Some 40 percent of primary schools and 35 percent of health centers in the country do not have access to safe water and sanitation, it said.

World Water Day has been observed by U.N. member countries since 1992 to draw awareness to sustainable use of water, health, and sanitation, and other issues related to water resources.

This year’s theme is water and energy.

Reported by Ouk Savbory and Samean Yun. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.

Comments (2)

Kon Cham

from neak loeung

Half of Cambodians Lack Access to safe Water they are at Hun Nal blind eye including eviction,take of your land,cannot make $2 a day,etc...He don't care about all of that,he cares about his family and money for themself,so all cambodian think about it and get up fight for your freedom,democracy.If you don't get up no one can help you.

Mar 29, 2014 12:09 AM


from Ratanakiri

Mr.HunViet is not interested in the Cambodian rights to be healthy and their rights to water.
He makes his own rights and let Cambodian to respect.
If you violate his rights you will be long term in jail.
Wake up Cambodian.

Mar 22, 2014 08:19 PM





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