Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
Today, it is my great pleasure and honor to participate in the First National Forum on Rural Sanitation, organized by the Ministry of Rural Development with the cooperation from our development partners. I would like to warmly welcome all Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen who present here at the First National Forum on Rural Sanitation.
Meanwhile, I would like to express my appreciation and highly value the managements and all civil servants of the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) for their close cooperation with various development partners involved in clean water supply and rural sanitation in order to organize this important First National Forum on Rural Sanitation. Taking this opportunity, let me also thanks all development partners for their bilateral and multilateral cooperation with the Royal Government of Cambodia on development in various sectors, which is actively contributing and supporting the RGC’s effort for poverty reduction and for the development of Cambodia.
Concerning the rural sanitation, I would like to note that Cambodia is not only the country that faces challenging issues in the lack of sanitation in rural areas. In general, around the world the provision of sanitation services are lagging behind the provision of access to clean water. In Cambodia, the lack of sanitation is one of the factors leading to poverty and hinders the Royal Government’s national economic development efforts; and we all should not overlook the fact that this is a personal and family issue for paying little attention in good sanitation practice.
According to the report of H.E. Yim Chhayly, Secretary of State of the MoRD and the Chairman of Technical Working Group on Rural Water Supply and Sanitation between the Royal Government and development partners, it shows that at present only 16% of Cambodians living in rural area have access to appropriate toilets; this limited number is attributable to two factors: people are not used to use toilets; and they could not afford to build one as it is expensive. This is one of the challenges in the development process of achieving the objectives of the Five Years National Strategic Development Plan 2006-2010; this issue has also hampered the economic growth of Cambodia. Despite this, the MoRD has exerted their utmost efforts to actively resolve the rural sanitation issues and have increased the number from 9% in 1998 to 16% in 2006; in this spirit, I would like to express my appreciation to the managements, civil servants of MoRD at all levels for their profound will, commitments and sacrifices in fulfilling their duties to serve the nation and people and with close collaboration with various development partners to improve the access to clean water and rural sanitation.
Peace and stability are the historical achievements of the Royal Government of Cambodia’s “win-win” strategy that has brought solid and predictable macroeconomic environment. This aspect reflects the right decision and achievement of the RGC in implementing the Rectangular Strategy which focuses special attention on the agricultural and rural sectors aiming at overcoming the challenges of strengthening the base of economic growth as well as distributing the fruits of growth to rural areas to address the poverty issue of the population.
On the foundation of peace and stability that is strengthened day by day, we have to overcome another obstacle of “combating poverty”. Regardless of the fact that poverty in Cambodia has been falling since 1993, the battle against poverty requires active participation of relevant stakeholders and the government is highly determined in pushing this fight against poverty through adopting reforms in all sectors within the framework of the “Rectangular Strategy” that has identified four particular mottos, which are: enhancing economic growth; creating employments for Cambodian workers; promoting equity and social justice; and strengthening efficiency of public service by implementing various deep and comprehensive reform programs.
In the above context, we cannot overlook the lack of sanitation problem of our rural people, and this has undermined the vision of clean water supply and rural sanitation policy ratified at the cabinet of ministers meeting in 2003 by determining that <<by 2025 all people living in rural community must have access to clean water and proper hygiene as well as to live in a sustainable and sanitary environment>>. To meet this vision, the Royal Government of Cambodia with the Ministry of Rural Development as the executing agency on clean water supply and rural sanitation must cooperate smoothly with institutions concerned and development partners in order to implement smoothly the rural sanitation programs in conformity with the policy of clean water supply and rural sanitation, or putting simply the strategy for rural sanitation, to develop better understanding of rural people on health and hygiene leading to positive change in the people’s mindset by regularly practice good hygiene habit in their daily living. In this spirit I would like to encourage all development partners to help solve this issue by cooperation with the government, especially the Ministry of Rural Development in seeking solution to the lack of rural sanitation problem.
According to the report on “Population and Health Survey in 2005” released by the Ministry of Planning and the Ministry of Health, it revealed that the relationship between insanitation and the risk of disease, particularly diarrhea is the main cause of child mortality of children under five years old, hence we must prepare urgent campaign against the problem of rural insanitation.
In order to successfully strengthen and ensure the efficiency and sustainability in rural sanitation as envisaged by the RGC in“Cambodian Millennium Development Goals” and “National Strategic Development Plan” I would like to convey some visions and measures as follow:
1. Strengthening Partnership
Clean water supply and rural sanitation sector involves many institutions from the national to local levels. Strengthening the partnership between governmental institutions and development partners is a determining factor of success on clean water supply and rural sanitation. Recently, as requested by H.E Keat Chhon, Senior Minister, Minister of the Ministry of Economy and Finance and chairman of government-development-partners facilitating committee, I had allowed the Ministry of Rural Development to establish a technical working group for clean water supply and rural sanitation by cooperating with development partners to enable Cambodian people living in rural area to have access to clean water and proper hygiene. Based on the data from the report on “Population and Health Survey in 2005”, Cambodia has a huge gap between clean water supply services and rural sanitation services. For that reason, I would like to appeal to the partnership of technical working group to concentrate on activities of promoting rural hygiene as suggested by the “Cambodian Millennium Development Goals” and “National Strategic Development Plans”.
2. Preparing campaign to promote rural sanitation
As many countries that had been successful in this sector, Cambodia must learn from the strength and weakness from those countries and craft those experiences to successfully apply to Cambodian rural sanitation sector. I would like to reiterate that the government takes the 13th November as the Rural Sanitation Day in Cambodia whose essence is broadly to raise awareness of health related impact of insanitation, positive change of habit and mindset of not caring about hygiene and to attract all kind of support from development partners and political willingness from all levels of government institutions from national to local level.
On the other hand, these crusades also represent the contribution of Cambodia to the United Nations which declared 2008 as the year that the world must care and promote sanitation. Drawing upon this declaration, Cambodia is well-prepared to respond to this statement by establishing a technical working group for rural sanitation comprising of governmental institutions and development partners and holding this forum on rural sanitation.
3. The provision of alternatively cheap technical construction of toilets for rural families
Urging the people movement for constructing toilets should not only be directed to those families who can afford it but also all families living in the village.
The study by the Ministry of Rural Development shows that the majority of rural families do not have access to toilets, particularly poor people in which 47% of whom said that they simply cannot afford to construct toilets for their families. This is an issue that needs to be addressed so that those families who cannot afford to use proper toilets can understand the health impact and toilet construction which is cheap and affordable enough and to change their family hygiene habits. Actually, the improvement in health situation does not requires complicated modern technology and a lot of money, it should be started with what people already have and understood to change their living habits and mindsets of ignoring the practice of good hygiene in the family and community.
4. Encouraging community’s initiatives
Since people are the mover and the core force in implementing and receiving the benefit from the implementation of various projects of the Royal Government’s development programs, all forms of encouragement for people to express their new creative ideas is the key factor for a sustainable development. We must learn from the people and urge them to understand their own problems and urge those communities with creative ideas in development to become independent and to eventually eliminate the thinking of sit-and-wait for external aids. With regard to this issue, in order to improve the practice of good family and community hygiene I would like to urge the Ministry of Rural Development and all the development partners who help the rural sanitation sector to enforce the strategy of Community Led Good Hygiene to ensure that all families have access to toilets and practice good hygiene habit in the family and community.
5. The projects implementation must be in consistent with clean water supply and rural sanitation’s strategy and policy
The Royal Government has considered the Ministry of Rural Development is a priority ministry among the four prioritized ministries which received progressive budget every year. Hence, the Ministry of Rural Development must cooperate with the Ministry of Economy and Finance to effectively use the state’s budget and co-operational funding provided by development partners to improve the rural sanitation sector. Effective effort to improve the rural sanitation requires all concerned parties to smoothly cooperate with one another both at preparing and implementing clean water supply and rural sanitation’s policy and strategy to enhance the community’s sense of responsibility. All of these would form a single point that makes the practical implementation of improving rural sanitation respond to the targeted objective of the Royal Government’s NSDP and CMDG. The investment on sanitation provides the people with good health and dignity, and responds to human resource development and human right which contributes to Cambodia’s socio-economic development. For instance, the investment on sanitation will enable the Royal Government to reduce children mortality rate and improve maternal health by eradicating various infectious diseases which resulted from the use and consumption of un-cleaned water and poor living hygiene. These positive factors will help to eliminate school dropouts of children, especially young girls and improve mother’s health so that they can perform their active roles in developing their communities.
6. Improving rural school sanitation
Enhancing the communication between communities and schools on the practice of good hygiene is a necessary factor in the sanitation improvement strategy. Children’s understanding on the practice of good hygiene at school will have a positive impact on the change of their families’ habit, a core strategy to enhance and promote good hygiene practice. Children are more vulnerable than adults from the danger of the lack of hygiene, hence the education of children in using the toilets, cleaning their hands with soaps, and the practices of other good hygiene habits should be done at schools so that children can use what they have learnt from schools at homes. I would like to advice the Ministry of Rural Development and the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports to cooperate closely with one another to promote good hygiene at schools and communities by using the theory learnt from schools for practical implementation at homes and communities.
Once again, I would like to thank the management and officials of the Ministry of Rural Development and all the development partners who have been cooperating with the Royal Government to develop all sectors, especially in rural sanitation which actively contributes to and supports the Royal Government’s efforts for poverty reduction and development of Cambodia. Finally, I wish Your Excellencies, Ladies, and Gentlemen with Five Gems of Buddhist Blessings.