Clean water is life’s most basic need, yet one in eight people of the world’s population do not have access to it. In Cambodia, a country of 14.8 million, there are over 9,000,000 cases of diarrhea. Bad water accounts for 13% of the deaths and 14.8% of the health burden. Without a better water source, villagers use water from deep holes dug into the ground, known as traditional pit wells, filled by rain and run-off from the surrounding fields containing animal and human feces.
Cambodia suffers drought conditions four-to-five months each year. Depending on water from the rainy season most families are limited in their agriculture cultivation to growing only one crop of rice per year, which may not be enough to even feed their family. In order to improve food security and nutrition it takes agriculture production and water access. Wells give villagers access to an ample and year-round water supply and the ability to irrigate gardens or create fish ponds, whereby improving their food securities, ultimately their health, as well as building their earning capacity with the sale of excess provisions. With increased yields of produce for meeting their family’s needs and excess for sale, improved health and income conditions can occur. As the nutrition and health status of the community improves, villagers have more time, energy and money to invest in private enterprise. Once their basic needs are met there is evidence of internally generated economic progress activity: i.e. transportation, technology and other aid involvement.
Access to water and sanitation, an adequate food supply, education and economic opportunity are challenges millions of Cambodians face every day. According to a UN declaration that resulted from the World Summit on Social Development in Copenhagen in 1995, absolute poverty is "a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information. It depends not only on income but also on access to services. In Cambodia, population living under the poverty line of US$1.25 per day is defined as the poor. They essentially lack the sufficient resources to meet their daily needs.
One of the most telling indicators for a lack of development is water access, food security, nutrition, and health status of the people. Low agricultural productivity often means there is very little surplus produce available for income generation, and low income leads to poor nutrition and poor health. The combination of little to no water access, food shortage and lack of agricultural income link directly to poor health and poor nutrition conditions. In the hierarchy order of needs, water must be met first before one can address the next level. When there is access to water, associated developments can occur to improve livelihoods and establish sustainable commerce.
One of the easiest ways to combat poverty and disease is to provide access to clean water sources. Bio-sand water filters ensure water from any water source is potable, immediately reducing the impact of water borne diseases. They alleviate the human suffering of sickness, death, lost employment, and the hardship of losing loved ones as a result of drinking contaminated water. Women spend less time caring for the sick and as a result have more time to pursue economic sustainability through small business or gardening. Children have more time and energy for education.
Trailblazer Foundation, one of Earth Protect’s 50 nonprofit partners, based in the state of Wyoming, USA, runs highly successful programs in rural villages of Cambodia and is celebrating its 10th year in operation.
Their mission continues to build upon self-sustaining programs which promote community and individual growth, and which empowers the individual. Learn more about Trailblazer Foundation
By: Chris Coats, Executive Director