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Gates Foundation Provides Millions for Sanitation in Cambodia, Vietnam

Bill Gates, accompanied by his wife Melinda speak to students at an appearance at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, North Carolina.
WASHINGTON DC - The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has provided nearly $11 million to help more than 1 million people establish better sanitation through the construction of latrines.

The funding, provided to the East Meets West Foundation, will help people in Cambodia and Vietnam, where around 17,000 people die each year from poor sanitation, said John Anner, director of East Meets West.

That means the loss of some $1.2 billion a year to medical treatment and absence from work, he said.

“So we see sanitation as not simply being a health issue, but also something that helps families trapped in the cycle of poverty and makes it hard to climb out of poverty,” Anner told VOA in an interview.

Meach Sotheary, executive director for the group Cambodian Women for Peace and Development, a local partner, said the project means more than just building latrines for impoverished Cambodians. “We have to educate them so that they understand why they need to build latrines,” she said.

CWPD will focus work on Pursat and Kampot provinces. The project runs through 2015.

Sout Yea, deputy governor of Kampot, said more latrines need to be built in the province, “because, according to their nature, farmers do not pay much attention to sanitation.”

The World Bank estimates that for every dollar invested in sanitation, a country saves $9 in productivity, said Nguyen Minh Chau, country director for East Meets West in Vietnam. “So it’s a very good return for investing in sanitation.”