Building One Latrine at a Time

Thursday 17 August 2017

There is much to celebrate in Sasasdom, a small, poor village in Siem Reap province in Cambodia. In June 2017, Sasasdom was declared Open Defecation Free by the Ministry of Rural Development, thanks to a strong collaboration between USAID’s NOURISH project and the Siem Reap Provincial Department of Rural Development (PDRD).

Before NOURISH started to work in Sasasdom, most villagers were not concerned about hygiene and sanitation because they did not know about the negative impact of open defecation on children’s growth and development. Only 40% of families had a toilet so most people defecated and disposed of child feces in the bushes around the village. Few people washed their hands before cooking and eating or after defecating. Diarrhea was common, especially in small children, so families were spending a large portion of their income on healthcare. Even families with latrines were affected because flies would spread disease from one house to another.

In September 2015, NOURISH together with PDRD started to make changes with the help of Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS). Through CLTS, community members recognized the importance of good sanitation and hygiene practices and felt motivated to build their own latrines. But some households were unable to do the manual labor required to build a latrine. In these families, active adults had migrated to work in other countries, leaving at home the elderly, women with young children and those unable to work. Without a latrine, these households had no choice but to continue to practice open defecation. As a result, the aspiration of becoming an Open Defecation Free village was impossible to achieve.

Determined and inspired by other villages nearby, the local village authorities and the PDRD refused to give up. PDRD decided to help build six latrines for the remaining households working side-by-side with village volunteers using materials that are easily available including bamboo, wood, plastic sheets and thatch. Mr. Moa Lak from the PDRD felt that "this was the best solution, and I was glad to help the vulnerable families get access to toilet facilities." This solution worked - now all homes in Sasasdom have toilets and families are using them.

I am happy that now my village is declared Open Defecation Free and my people live in good sanitation and hygiene. We would not have made it without the support from PDRD,” said Mrs. Khuon Hort, Sasasdom Village Chief.  

If there was no PDRD support, I would still be practicing open defecation,” acknowledges Mrs. Rav Samphors, a NOURISH beneficiary who is happy and thankful that the PDRD helped her build a latrine since her husband worked overseas and she lives alone with her baby.

Sasasdom is one of 378 villages where NOURISH held CLTS since 2015. Twelve villages are now declared Open Defecation Free with many more to come.