Poor sanitation costs Cambodia $450 million a year due to health costs resulting from water-borne diseases such as diarrhea, according to a new report by the UN Environment Program.
The report follows data released last week by the World Bank that found that 75 percent of Cambodians still defecate outdoors and that Cambodia’s progress has been slow toward achieving the UN Millennium Development Goal of increasing rural access to sanitation to 30 percent by 2015, up from 8.6 percent in 1996.
“7.2 percent of Cambodian GDP is lost because of bad sanitation,” the report, titled “Towards a Green Economy,” said. “When sanitation services are inadequate, the costs of water-borne disease are high.”
Pieter Van Maaren, representative for the World Health Organization in Cambodia, said the WHO and Ministry of Health are working together in order to educate people “about proper hygiene and use of proper toilet facilities,” but that many challenges remained.
“Obviously, when there’s no clean water…there’s a risk of diarrhea, and there are costs associated with that,” Mr Van Maaren said yesterday.
Despite the challenges, the UNEP report singled out the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority as an example of a private company that has seen successes in water management.
Between 1993 and 2009, the number of connections to a fresh water supply in Phnom Penh increased “seven-fold” and revenues at the company increased from $300,000 to $25 million over the same period, according to the report.
Ek Sonn Chan, director of the PPWSA, said that the rise in revenues was partly due to a crackdown on corruption and enforcing the payment of bills after he inherited a water system destroyed by the Khmer Rouge regime.
However, people living on the outskirts of Phnom Penh and in the rest of the country still face a multitude of water-related problems—especially droughts in the dry season and floods in the rainy season, Mr Sonn Chan said.