Water In Cambodia
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Getting Water Right - A Holistic Approach


by Rich Cromwell

Since 2010, I have ridden my bike across most of the countries in southeast Asia. A roadside encounter with a young orphan boy introduced me to the distressing fate of orphans in Cambodia. Since then, I have made five trips back to Cambodia. Friends and neighbors have made donations to support to my efforts to improve the lives of the Cambodian kids. In 2013, the Bath Rotary Club and District 7780 funded water and sanitation work at the Bridges orphanage in Cambodia through a Community grant.
In 2014, the Bath Rotary club applied for a "Springboard" grant which funded another trip to Cambodia. Five villages were visited to study water and sanitation problems (which have trapped the villagers in a cycle of poverty) and possible solutions.
Top: Lieb, my translator and surveyor extraordinaire, conducting an interview.
Bottom:  Kids at typical dug well in Smach.
In the five remote Cambodian villages that our survey team of six visited, we found 105 uninstalled latrine kits. The cement rings, cover plates and porcelain squat toilets were strewn about villagers' yards. Not one was installed. The villagers had paid an NGO 'roadshow' the equivalent of a month's earnings for the latrine components. They had received one community hygiene class and installation instructions months before, but 89% of the villagers were still defecating in the open. What had gone wrong? This NGO had not engaged the villagers ¼ and the villagers had not bought into the program.
Our door-to-door 'Knowledge, Attitude and Practices (KAP) Survey' taught us:
●    That 99% of the 503 households in the five villages had no latrines;
●    That in the dry season, 86% of the villagers depend on polluted ponds and a polluted river
for drinking water, and only 33% of the families treat that water. This bleak situation is
exacerbated by poor hygiene practices and improper water storage techniques.
●    We also found shocking deficits in basic hygiene knowledge.
All of the above lead to diarrhea, urinary tract infections and gastro-intestinal illness that cripple the villagers financially (due to expensive and distant medical clinics) and cause the kids to miss school and adults to miss the little work available.
Addressing latrines is just one aspect of this troubling water, sanitation and hygiene disaster.
I am sure you all get the picture and many have experienced firsthand disadvantaged people trapped in this cascade of water, sanitation and hygiene dilemmas.
In 2015, the Bath Rotary Club will apply for a Global Grant to address the shortcomings uncovered in the KAP Survey and village interviews.
Our Rotary has decided to use a holistic approach to address all aspects of the problem unlike the well-meaning, but shortsighted NGO mentioned above.
We are proposing to: drill and/or dig wells in each village; curtail open defecation by supplying latrine materials and promoting self-help installation from the villagers; install water filters in at least 70% of the households; and most important, we will educate through intense health and hygiene promotion.
In preliminary proposals to our Cambodian partners, we have included not only pre-installation
community and individual education, but also ongoing follow-up for one year.
All households, latrines, wells, other water sources, and water filters will be GPS located to facilitate a contracted follow-up program. For instance, after one year, 30% of the facilities will be randomly selected and inspected.
We expect remarkable results. Our study of other similar interventions indicates that an eagerness to transform their life's conditions will spread among the villagers and then from village to village.
Our holistic approach will end the cycle of poverty in this forgotten corner of Cambodia!
Top:  Rich inspecting sole water source in Kandal.
Middle:  Villager in Char being interviewed in her hut.
Bottom:  Survey crew from "Water for Cambodia" compiling data in Romeat.