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Lack of Clean Water, Sanitation Costs Millions: Group

The lack of clean water and sanitation is costing Cambodia around half a billion dollars every year in poor health and a loss of tourists, a study has found.

In a discussion titled, “Water is Medicine,” Jaehyang So, manager of the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program, said that a study commissioned by the organization on economic impacts caused by the lack of water and sanitation shows that Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam lose around $9 billion every year.

“All of a sudden, the lack of sanitation became not a problem of the poor person that doesn’t have access to sanitation, but it became a real constraint to economic growth in the country,” she told an audience of health experts and policymakers last week in Washington.

In Cambodia, knowledge and access to sanitation and clean water are limited, while less than 30 percent of rural population has decent latrines. But advocates say their knowledge about sanitation has increased in the past year due to many campaigns to raise their awareness.

“Nowadays we focus our campaign on three points: firstly, building rural toilets; secondly, washing hands with soap after going to the toilet and eating food; and finally, drinking safe water and keeping their water at home safely,” Chea Samnang, director of the Ministry of Rural Development’s rural sanitation department, told VOA Khmer by phone Thursday.

Diarrhea is still the main disease caused by a lack of sanitation and clean water and is a leading cause of death in Cambodia and other countries around the world.

So said poor health, disease and the loss of tourists who won’t come to a country without proper sanitation cost Cambodia $488 million a year.

“With this information the government could truly understand that in addition to providing sanitation for every household and every citizen of Cambodia…they could not afford not to provide that sanitation, because without sanitation Cambodia was losing seven percent of GDP,” So told VOA Khmer.

Experts estimate that the lack of sanitation and clean water kills some 1.5 million children every year worldwide, while even small investments to counter the problem can save lives.