PHNOM PENH, March 21 (Xinhua) -- About 6.3 million Cambodians, or 42 percent of the population, have no access to safe water, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said in a statement to mark the World Water Day on Friday.
"Some 3.9 million of those without access to safe drinking water in Cambodia are poor and live in rural areas," the statement said. "Without safe water and adequate sanitation and hygiene, children, who represent 41 percent of the population, are especially vulnerable to water-borne diseases."
This costs lives and money.
In Cambodia, said the statement, diarrhea is the second leading cause of death for children under the age of five, while vitamin and mineral deficiencies due to diarrhea results in an annual loss of 146 million U.S. dollars to Cambodia's gross domestic product.
UNICEF said increased commitment and investment in enhancing the quality of rural water will not only ensure that every person has water and sanitation as a human right, but also help to accelerate Cambodia's economic and social development.
"Attention to rural water supply, sanitation and hygiene will unquestionably deliver results - less child deaths, better learning at school, less disease, more productive workers, less health costs for the people," said Ms. Rana Flowers, UNICEF representative to Cambodia. "These services are central to Cambodia's future as a middle income country."
To improve health outcomes in Cambodia, public institutions and households must have access to safe water and sanitation. About 40 percent of primary schools and 35 percent of health centers do not have safe drinking water facilities.
To celebrate World Water Day in Cambodia, the popular Cambodian comedy Perkmy team will be host a one-hour TV show on Cambodian Television Network Saturday evening to highlight the importance of safe water and to feature ways to prevent diarrhea, UNICEF said.