Ensuring Dignity in Health Care Service Increases Service Use

CWS Cambodia | March 15, 2018

New toilet for the health center. Photo: CWS

When CWS partner, Rural Development Association (RDA), staff started working in Chroy Sdao commune in western Cambodia two years ago, the health center was in great disrepair. The most alarming indicator of the clinic’s poor situation was the lack of a functioning toilet – at a health clinic! Still the health center staff was meant to provide basic care and services for four villages whose 2,341 families had 11,880 members of all ages and with many different health care issues and needs. On average, clinic staff was seeing between 20 and 30 patients each day for services as diverse as pre-natal check-ups, deliveries and post-natal care; different vaccinations; tuberculosis and malnutrition treatment, and other general health issues. Many patients and their relatives or other caregivers spent long hours in the clinic, which meant they needed to use the toilet, of course; and other patients needed to provide urine and stool samples, which required a toilet as well.

The situation at the clinic became known to CWS in June 2016, when RDA partnered with the health center team to initiate much-needed nutrition and health/hygiene education. An obvious and essential supportive activity for the education initiative was to have a safe, sanitary toilet at the clinic so patients and community members could practice what they learned about the importance of latrine (toilet) use. So next, CWS funded the health center to repair a two-room sanitary latrine, which is just one of the many latrines built or repaired in the commune: 31 extremely poor families were supported to build sanitary latrines for their homes and another two-room sanitary latrine was built at a nearby primary school as well.

Recently, during a CWS staff follow-up visit in Chroy Sdao, clinic Director, Mr. Ith Vuth, told us, “Before it was difficult for patients, especially women, people with disabilities and the elderly, who came for services only to find we didn’t have a latrine and so they needed to go to a nearby home for this”. Now with a relatively small investment, things have changed for the better; and this is thanks, in no small part, to the generosity of those who support CWS so we can help poor families and communities around the world as they work to improve their own lives.

One grateful Cambodian patient is Chanthou, who now visits the health center for prenatal treatment for her third pregnancy, and who told us, “I am so happy that there is a latrine for patients. Now we have privacy unlike before when, for a urine test sample, we had to go outside the clinic and ask a neighboring family with a latrine at their house to use it. Or, sometimes, we had to use an open outdoor space! In the past, I felt such shame in this that I sometimes didn’t come for my check-ups. But now I come regularly to my appointments, and I notice that many others are doing the same as me”.

(For more information please contact MSophal@cwsglobal.org )

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