In Cambodia, poverty, a lack of infrastructure, and a long standing practice of open defecation all contribute to poor sanitation. In areas where people go to the bathroom in the open, contact with feces can result in illnesses being easily transmitted through what is known as the four “Fs”: food, fingers, flies, and fields. The most common condition is diarrhea, which still causes more deaths in children under the age of 5 than HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis, combined.
Even when death isn’t an outcome, repeated bouts of diarrhea at a young age can often lead to malnutrition and stunted growth. In addition, when children miss school and adults miss work due to sickness, economic opportunities are often lost.
Plan International USA’s Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) programs provide access to improved sanitation, which prevents the transmission of feces. Projects also improve hygiene through the education of communities and promotion of best practices like proper hand-washing with soap.
The Cambodian Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Improvement Program (CR-SHIP)
The Cambodian Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Improvement Program (CR-SHIP) is a project led by Plan Cambodia and funded by the Global Sanitation Fund. The program promotes access to sanitation and hygiene in rural Cambodia through community-based approaches that aim to increase the demand for sanitation through what is referred to as a “triggering” process. The process has the community examine its sanitation behaviors and the negative consequences that may develop as a result. Once behaviors have been examined, the community determines the best course of action to resolve its sanitation issues.
Plan International USA supports Plan Cambodia through the provision of technical advice and strategic support. Each year members of the WASH team visit the project to receive project updates and support various activities.
In September 2013, Lauren Yamagata, a member of the WASH team, had the opportunity to attend a project event, where villagers watched a presentation with Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) messaging. They had the opportunity to hear testimonials from other members of the program who had purchased latrines at previous events.
Trained sanitation marketers were also on hand to educate the community about the different types of latrines and the materials that are needed for their construction.
At the end of the event, individuals were encouraged to come forward and make a commitment to change their sanitation behavior. Latrine components were prominently displayed and community members encouraged to ask questions. Volunteers were also on hand to assist the individuals who were interested in purchasing a latrine.