Small huts, mud in the streets, open sewers, stagnant water, garbage and bad smell… This is where the poor communities of Neak Loeung live. As nearly half the population in Cambodia, most of them do not have access to safe water and basic sanitation. (UNICEF, 2014) Children, and especially younger children, are the first victims of unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and insufficient hygiene. They are more vulnerable to skin disease, respiratory illnesses, intestinal and other waterborne and excreta-related diseases. Diarrhea continues to be the second leading cause of death among children in East Asia. (WHO, 2004)
In Cambodia, an estimated 10,000 overall children die every year, largely owing to lack of sanitation and poor hygiene practices. (UNICEF, 2014) Yet, hand washing with soap can decrease diarrheal deaths by more than 40 per cent. This means that communicating key hygiene practices would have the potential to save 4,000 children per year. However, only 6 out of 10 people in Cambodia practice hand washing. (2010 National Sanitation and Hygiene Survey)
Hand washing at Damnok Toek Centre for street children © AEA Cambodia / 2015 / Chin
Education and health in synergy
AEA Cambodia’s hygiene awareness and promotion efforts focus on changing behaviour by such as hand washing with soap, brushing teeth, treating and drinking safe water. “The hygiene course is one of our compulsory courses. It is important to lessen the spread of disease. I always remind my students to wash their hands before and after playing, before lunch, and before and after going to the toilet” says Mr. Sokha, a teacher at Damnok Toek centre for street children supported by AEA Cambodia. Good hand-washing practices are supported with consistent access to water and adequate supplies of soap. Soap, toothbrushes and toothpastes are available next to all sinks. As a result, “children regularly brush their teeth and wash their hands several times a day. I now observe that they are less sick and less absent,” adds Mr. Sokha.