Petra Rautavuoma, WASH Sector Leader in Cambodia, shares some key highlights from the Asia Regional Learning Event where participants from seven countries (Cambodia, Bhutan, Nepal, Indonesia, Vietnam, Uganda, and Kenya) and global guests (IRC, SNV) have come together to share experiences regarding sustainable sanitation services.
The third day of the Asia Regional Learning Event "Thinking beyond the finish line: Sustainable sanitation services for all" started with very interesting presentations from the four groups that travelled to the rural communes in the Banteay Meas, Basedth and Kong Pisey districts. All groups developed photo stories, case studies and testimonies based on their field assignments to explore and learn from the progress and challenges in sustainable sanitation service delivery in rural Cambodian districts and provide recommendations for next steps. The findings and recommendations were presented to a panel of national and district government representatives and sector specialists.
- Group A: Trapeang Sala Khang Lech commune, Banteay Meas district, Kampot province – Post-ODF commune with 100% sanitation coverage
- Group B: Sdach Kong Khang Tbong commune, Banteay Meas district, Kampot province – Reaching the last mile with 93% sanitation coverage
- Group C: Roka Koh commune, Kong Pisey district, Kampong Speu province – Piloting the decentralized rural sanitation service delivery model
- Group D: Basedth commune, Basedth district - Technology options and FSM
At the end of all the group presentations, H.E. Dr. Chea Samnang, National Coordinator for WSSCC in Cambodia, highlighted the importance of the decentralization of rural sanitation in Cambodia to achieve the ambitious goal of the Royal Government of Cambodia to achieve universal access to rural sanitation in Cambodia by 2025 and to ensure sustainability. The presentation of Mr. Virak Chan, Water and Sanitation Specialist of the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP), on the pilot on rural sanitation decentralized service delivery in Cambodia started the discussions in the afternoon on the institutional frameworks for sustainable sanitation service delivery. The Royal Government of Cambodia has adopted the National Strategic Plan for Rural Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene for 2014-2025 (NSP-RWSSH), providing a target for the rural sanitation sector to achieve universal coverage by 2025, as well as a broad framework for how sanitation services are to be delivered. The strategy emphasizes the importance of district level as the key‐level for technical support to service provision at local level (i.e. commune). In other words, the importance of bringing sustainable sanitation services closer to communities.
SNV is currently working together with WSP to support the Ministry of Rural Development (MRD) and the National Committee for Sub-National Democratic Development Secretariat (NCDD-S) in the implementation of rural sanitation decentralized service delivery in ten pilot districts in the Kampong Speu and Tboung Khmum provinces. Through technical support, capacity building and knowledge and learning processes primarily at the district level the aim is to support MRD in operationalizing the decentralization of rural sanitation sub-functions to the Sub-National Administrations; and NCDD-S in strengthening the functions of district and commune level to exercise their new (and existing) mandates.
The case study presented by Gabrielle Halcrow, SNV’s regional programme coordinator for SSH4A, on 'Remote Environmental Health Services in Northern Territory in Australia' highlighted that reaching the universal sanitation coverage is not the “finish line” and that on-going monitoring, inspections, enforcements, collaboration among all key actors and stakeholders, capacity building and strengthening the health promotion practices at local level are still needed and crucially important. It was interesting to hear that large amounts of public funds have been invested to support the basic health infrastructure (such as water and sanitation) to improve environmental health conditions for the indigenous people living in remote areas in Australia, but as we have also learned in many countries in the Asia region, subsidies have proven not to be the sustainable solution.
The day ended with the very interesting and heated debate on the following statement: “After reaching ODF, one of the new functions of the government should be the regulation, inspection and enforcement of safe toilets and safe emptying services.” Half of the learning event participants were passionately arguing and justifying why this statement is correct and the other group was providing very good arguments against!