ODF aspirations bring a village together

Sage Handeling of child feces

Prey Khmeng village, located in Khnat commune, Puok district, Siem Reap province is around 15 km from the provincial town, with a population is 517 (264 women). Prior to NOURISH project implementation, only 68 households had access to a latrine (63% sanitation coverage). There was a high incidence of sanitation-related illnesses such as diarrhoea. Many households spent a considerable proportion of their monthly income in medical treatments. Parents constantly worried about the safety of elderly members of the household and their daughters when they went out to defecate, especially at night.

At the start of NOURISH project activities, a baseline study found that most people had low understanding of disease transmission and the importance of sanitation and hygiene. Most caregivers of young children did not know about the importance of proper disposal of infant faeces. Often these were dumped on the ground near the home, along with their baby's bath water. Handwashing with soap before meals and after defecation were hardly practised. Although many families aspired to own a latrine, it was not high on their priority list.

In April 2016, the NOURISH project team along with the Provincial Department of Rural Development (PDRD) authorities and local authorities conducted Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) triggering activities in the village to educate residents on three key messages: the importance of, using a toilet; handwashing with soap; and drinking safe water. Since then, the PDRD staff conducted regular follow-up activities and door-to-door visits in the village. As a result, more households decided to buy materials and build toilets. However, some of the poorest households were unable to build toilets due to lack of funds. Because open defecation practice was still ongoing, the village was not able to reach their open defecation free goal.

In addition to the sanitation demand triggering and door-to-door follow-up activities, other approaches were used by the Village Chief, Mr Phal Chit, to improve sanitation access in Prey Khmeng village. Households (with and without toilets) were invited to demand triggering events to share their experiences. He negotiated with suppliers to allow payment by instalment for toilet building materials for poor families. Mr Phal Chit, during village events and ceremonies, never missed the opportunity to spread key sanitation messages and the benefits of having a toilet.

By early 2017, only 12 households were still without a toilet. To address this, Mr Phal Chit gathered community members to support in toilet construction for these households.

In less than two years in Prey Khmeng village, 140 new toilets were built, covering the 37 percentage point gap in sanitation coverage. Today, all 108 households are using toilets. On 15 June 2017, the review committee led by the Ministry of Rural Development (MRD) declared the village open defecation free.

Written by: Sunetra Lala/SNV in Cambodia

Photo by: Him Pao/SNV in Cambodia