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Project report

Clean Water for Mothers and Babies in Cambodia Cambodia , RUN BY: WaterAid Australia | STATUS: COMPLETED

WaterAid/Tom Greenwood

This project is 100% Funded



AUD 30,004

Raised from 9,789 people

Project Background

This report provides an overview of the key achievements, impacts, lessons learnt and challenges faced as we embarked on our new project to improve water, sanitation and hygiene in rural Cambodian healthcare facilities (HCF’s). As per the original plan, the project is progressing well and is on budget.

WaterAid is pleased to share our progress and acknowledges the generosity of all those who have contributed in helping us to make a start on our journey towards improving and upgrading facilities and hygiene knowledge in healthcare facilities across Kampong Chhang, Kampong Thom and Thbong Khmom provinces in Cambodia. 

In October 2014, in partnership with the World Health Organisation (WHO) WaterAid Australia undertook research in two rural provinces in Cambodia, to understand the status of water, sanitation and hygiene in healthcare facilities, particularly those that provide services in maternal and newborn health. We found:

  • Almost no facilities provided drinking water for patients
  • Pregnant women were unable to access proper toilets
  • There was a lack of handwashing facilities or soap in maternity wards
  • Many doctors and nurses were not washing their hands properly or practising proper infection control
  • There were no proper bio-medical waste systems.

With these findings in mind, WaterAid has embarked on this new project with an overall goal of protecting the health and safety of mothers and their newborn babies when accessing services in a Cambodian healthcare facility.

Project Partners and Collaboration

In order to make significant and sustainable improvements to water, sanitation and hygiene in healthcare facilities, we have worked hard to establish strong relationships with government partners.

Starting with a formal meeting with the Secretary of State for the Ministry of Health, His Excellency Professor Eng Huot was presented with a clear message that WASH in healthcare facilities is essential to basic quality of care and a fundamental part of infection prevention control. He not only agreed with its importance for improving health in Cambodia but also reinforced it, stating, “Without water, healthcare facilities can’t reach the infection prevention control standard.” 

This initial meeting led to an official memorandum of understanding between WaterAid Cambodia and the Ministry of Health to work in partnership towards the goal of jointly improving healthcare facilities. We are now working with government and are taking the first steps to assess HCF’s across the following five standards:

  1. Basic water supply facilities
  2. Basic sanitation facilities 
  3. Basic hand hygiene facilities 
  4. Cleaning routines 
  5. Healthcare waste management

Project Impact; What We've Achieved

Water, sanitation and hygiene activities to improve the standards of care in Cambodian hospitals and healthcare facilities included:

  • Assessing 117 HCFs across five provinces. By understanding their gaps and needs, this will allow the healthcare facilities to draw up plans and work towards bringing their facility to a proper and unified standard.
  • Inviting local authorities and healthcare facility staff to participate in the Safety and Accessibility workshop. At the workshop, staff gained a better understanding of the barriers disabled people and pregnant women face when accessing toilets at a healthcare facility.  After completion of the workshop, modifications and improvements were made to a healthcare facility toilet block. As a result, disabled people and pregnant women are now able to use the toilet during their stay.
  • Overseeing sustainability and regular water testing at 10 referral hospitals who have received new water filtration systems. 
  • In the same 10 hospitals, conducting a training needs assessment in WASH and infection prevention and control. Training was delivered to staff at each hospital and an evaluation completed. Staff now have a greater awareness around the importance of washing hands to prevent cross infection.
  • Facilitating training of 2 Ministry of Health staff and 2 Local NGO staff in partnership with the World Health Organisation. Staff will now go on to train other staff in HCFs around infection control and proper hygiene. 
  • Launching the Healthy Start – Youth Campaign. To create more understanding and public demand for cleaner healthcare facilities, three youth groups were selected to develop and implement micro-campaigns in their community with the message of improving WASH in healthcare facilities. This is the first time youth groups have been engaged to campaign on these issues.

Challenges Faced

The process of contextualising a standardised WASH assessment to fit the Cambodian context required more time than we envisaged. There was an expectation that the global assessment tool would be fit for purpose in Cambodia but in reality, changes were needed. 

Once the assessment tool was modified, steps were taken to create leadership/ownership with Ministry of Health staff, this also took more time and investment than we first thought and required considerable amounts of orientation, learning initiatives and training at both the national and sub-national level.

Case Study: Nurse Aranhya Peu

 “It is very good now we have the clean water because we can use the water to clean the materials. Before, we used water from the well and it was not safe to clean materials with this water because it had viruses. So it’s very good for me now I have access to use clean water here.

“When we used the water from the well, patients often became sick but now they are less sick. And, they have more money because they don’t have to spend money to buy bottled water. We always inform the patients that they can drink this water. It makes me very happy.”

What's Next?

The ‘Putting the lives of mothers and babies in safe (clean) hands’ project will continue to work in partnership with the Ministry of Health, National Institute for Public Health, World Health Organisation, Nossal Institute and other research partners and local and international NGO’s. This joint effort will bring sanitation, water and hygiene standards in health care facilities to a minimum standard in Cambodia. 

How was it this funded?

Thanks to hundreds of tiny donations from these online businesses and their customers.

World Nomads Canada
***World Nomads UK
Travel Insurance Direct AU
Travel Insurance Direct NZ
WaterAid Australia

Over 650 million people in the world don’t have access to safe, clean water to drink, and over two billion don’t have sanitation. WaterAid Australia is an international NGO dedicated exclusively to the provision of safe domestic water, sanitation and hygiene education to the world’s poorest people.