Ensuring inclusive WASH in Cambodia

Cambodia has set a target for everyone to have access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) by 2025 — five years ahead of the Sustainable Development Goals. To meet this ambitious target, and ensure everyone can enjoy the health and productivity benefits these services bring, close attention must be paid to reaching the most marginalised segments of society.

With support from the Australian Government via the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP), WaterAid Australia and partners — including CBM Australia — have been supporting the Cambodian Ministry of Rural Development to develop and implement national guidelines for more inclusive services.

Vibol reading a speech while in his wheelchair
Vibol Ratanak presents at the workshop. Photo credit: WaterAid/You Sokmeng.

The approach has been to identify local champions for change and create platforms for dialogue. Several consultation workshops were held to develop the guidelines, with involvement of representative organisations of marginalised groups. The National Guidelines on WASH for People with Disabilities and Older People were finalised in late 2016, and the focus since has been to work with the Ministry of Rural Development to roll the guidance out across Cambodia.

Training workshops for each of the country’s 25 provinces were co-designed and facilitated by the Cambodian Disabled People’s Organisation. Vibol Ratanak was one of the key facilitators for the training workshops. Still in his twenties, Vibol is now one of the youngest Cambodian trainers on inclusive WASH.

Vibol draws on his own experience to highlight the importance of the guidelines.

“When I started to go to school it was the worst time because of discrimination, name-calling related to my disability. At school I couldn’t access the toilet because it was too small [to fit a wheelchair] and there was no ramp, so I didn’t eat or drink a lot,” said Vibol.

Action plans have now been developed and are set for implementation by local authorities across the country. Given his experience growing up, Vibol is proud to be part of driving greater inclusivity across Cambodia. His hope is that people eventually focus on ability, rather than disability.

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