Health and water projects bring real change to Cambodians

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Health and water projects bring real change to Cambodians “The piped water supply is ten times cheaper than the untreated water we used to buy from a private tanker,” says Mr. El Minea.

Since achieving lower middle-income country status in 2015, Cambodia is poised to enter a new stage of development.  The World Bank’s strong partnership with Cambodia supports the country’s strategic goals of maintaining its robust economic growth record, improving access to and quality of public services, reducing poverty, and continuing to strengthen public institutions. The World Bank Group Country Partnership Framework (CPF 2019-2023) is testament to this cooperation.  

Work under the CPF has achieved significant results in various sectors, such as expanding and improving sustainable infrastructure services, increasing access to quality health services, and strengthening the management of water supply and water resources.

In August 2022, my colleagues and I went to look at the work of various projects around the country.  

In Mondul Kiri province, we were impressed by the positive local results of the Water Supply and Sanitation Improvement Project, which has brought clean, piped water to 2,800 more people in Saen Monoroum town. We were invited out of the wet and chilly weather there into the house of a Mr. El Minea, 36, from the indigenous Bunong ethnic group. He told us how happy the family was, especially his two young children, to get connected to the provincial water supply.

In neighboring Rattanak Kiri province, we visited the provincial hospital and a health center at Kon Mom. I was impressed by how well maintained the hospital buildings were, by the knowledge of the health staff on duty, and the cleanliness of the surroundings.

The Bank’s Health Equity and Quality Improvement Project supports better quality health care services, helping people in remote communities get to these services. Under the project the authorities provide Health Equity Funds that allow poor patients to use health care services free of charge.  

At Kon Mom Health Center we met Ms. Nhonh Chantry, a 52-year-old member of the Village Health Support Group (VHSG). Ms. Nhonh’s work involves helping pregnant women from local villages access prenatal care and persuading them to give birth at the health center. She also helps provide information to new mothers, following up with them on vaccinations for their children and nutrition matters.

Ms. Nhonh is one of thousands of Village Health Support Group volunteers throughout the country who support health centers by spreading health education, raising awareness about essential health messages among mothers and families, and making home visits that help change community behavior.

The Health Equity and Quality Improvement Project is an important program for Cambodia, with the government providing significant financing, alongside funding from the World Bank, Australia, the German Development Bank, and the Korean International Cooperation Agency. By the end of 2021, the project had helped poor patients access healthcare services about 15 million times, with over 8,000 cases of surgery across the country.   

At Kon Mom Health Center with Ms. Nhonh Chantry, member of the Village Health Support Group (VHSG)
Chantry says, “When I first started this work, it was difficult to get pregnant women to come to the health center because they were afraid of the health staff in their white-uniforms. But I kept at it. Now all pregnant women in my village come to give birth at the health center. I am very proud of my role.” © Saroeun Bou/World Bank

Our next stop was to join H.E. Veng Sakhon, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, colleagues, and government officials at the inauguration of the Upper Mekong Aquatic Animal Production and Research Center . This regional aquatic animal research and hatchery facility is in Stung Treng province and can produce over 3 million fish fingerlings every year.

The center, supported by phase 3 of the World Bank’s Mekong Integrated Water Resource Management Project, will function as a regional capacity building hub for farmers, researchers, and students. This project has also established 70 community fisheries in the northeast of the country, helping to protect the fisheries so essential to food security in Cambodia.

After attending the opening of the Center, we went to see one of these community fisheries in Kampi village, Kratie province. We were struck by how many women were participating in this community work. With financial support from the Mekong project, the community helps its members identify activities that improve their livelihoods, offering training in alternative sources of income that can help reduce overfishing in conservation areas. Using community grants through the project, many women are growing vegetables, raising livestock, or running small businesses. 

This short trip made it clear to my colleagues and I that the World Bank Group’s partnership with the government is reaping positive results for many ordinary Cambodians. Going forward, the World Bank will continue to support Cambodia’s recovery, reform and resilience strategy post COVID-19 , helping the country to manage the impact of rising food and energy prices through technical assistance and targeted financial support.


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