Huge Drop in Rate of Open Defecation, Report Says

The open defecation rate in Cambodia has dropped by 42 percent since 1990, according to a new U.N. report, but the country’s urban poor still have limited access to improved sanitation.

“Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water,” released by Unicef and the World Health Organization on Wednesday, ranked Cambodia third on a list of countries that have reduced open defecation rates by at least 25 percentage points.

According to the report, the figure currently stands at 47 percent in Cambodia, down from 89 percent 15 years ago.

Zero percent of the country’s urban population is now defecating in the open, compared to 65 percent in 1990, while 60 percent of the rural population is, down from 94 percent.

Despite the improvements, the report showed a huge gap between rich and poor in Cambodia, with just 36 percent of the country’s poor urbanites using “improved sanitation” in 2012, compared to 100 percent of wealthier residents of cities and towns. According to the report, Cambodia’s neighbors are faring far better.

Thailand has completely eliminated inequality in urban sanitation, while in Vietnam and Laos, 63 and 56 percent of urban poor populations have access to improved sanitation, respectively.

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