Lifewater Results in Svay Leu, Cambodia: Safe Water, Healthy Kids

In the Southeast Asian nation of Cambodia, 21 percent of the population does not have basic access to safe drinking water. It’s a challenge that touches every area of a person’s life every day of their lives. But, when it’s resolved, the transformation is far-reaching.

Lifewater staff began working in target communities in Svay Leu, a region of Cambodia chosen for it’s rural communities and low water coverage, in July of 2018. At the time, 87 percent of the population did not have access to safe water in the rainy and dry season.

Between July 2018 and August 2020, Lifewater staff served 12,601 people with safe water, sanitation, and hygiene and constructed 42 water points in villages and schools. Following program completion, staff conducted surveys and focus group discussions to measure WASH progress in the area.


Svay Leu, Cambodia Water and Sanitation Results

1. 89 percent decrease in prevalence of childhood diarrhea

UNICEF reports that 480,000 children under the age of five die each year due to diarrheal disease, a disease primarily prevented with simple sanitation, hygiene, and safe water access. Globally, this makes diarrheal disease the second leading cause of death for children under the age of five.

Before Lifewater programs, more than half of the population in Svay Leu had a child ill from diarrhea. After, only seven percent reported the same. That’s an 89 percent decrease in childhood diarrhea.

“My children wash their hands with soap before eating and after playing and using a latrine,” one community member said. “My children are not often sick now, unlike before.”

Cambodia water crisis
A child pumps safe drinking water from a community well

2. 309 percent increase in homes using latrines that are “improved with dignity”

Building and using a bathroom is critical to health. When people use open fields or forests to defecate, health deteriorates. This is especially harmful when those same families depend on surface water sources for drinking water; rains wash everything from surrounding fields into water sources like ponds or rivers.

Using a pour-flush latrine separates people from feces, drastically decreasing waterborne diseases and improving health.

A bathroom that is considered “improved with dignity” is one that has four walls, a roof, a slab (floor), and a door. Before Lifewater programs, only 22 percent of families had a latrine improved with dignity. Afterwards, 90 percent did.

“Before the program started in our village, the environment… was badly polluted and had worms, a bad smell, and flies,” one community member reported. “But, now it is all clean and no more smell and no human feces in public or in our household compound.”

Cambodia water crisis
A woman greeting Lifewater staff in Cambodia

3. Nearly every person with access to safe water

In Cambodia, a main source of water is the heavy rainfall. That water, if it isn’t stored in large ceramic pots, is often gathered from ponds. This has become the cultural preference, with many families preferring the taste of rain water over ground water.

To meet this cultural preference and while constructing water wells, the Lifewater team taught families how to make their water clean through boiling it or putting it through a ceramic filter (a high-quality, affordable way of providing safe drinking water).

Before Lifewater programs, 58.4 percent of the population in Svay Leu treated their water before drinking it. Afterwards, 98.2 percent treated their water, meaning almost every person had access to safe water.

“This brings health and improvements to my family,” one community member said. “We have a lot of knowledge on WASH now and really believe our community is practicing it, and it will last through generation after generation.”

In Svay Leu, Cambodia, families are living healthy lives because of the generosity of Lifewater donors, because of prayers heard and answered, and because of the hard work that communities themselves put into achieving improved and lasting health.

Get the full report by downloading below, and see how safe water and newfound health are bringing hope to communities in need.


Choose a Village. Change a Life.