As CWS prepares to end its engagement in Cambodia next year, I joined with my colleagues in Kampong Thom province to celebrate 24 years of partnering with families, communities and local government, as they work with us to improve their food security, health, education and access to clean water.
CWS started working in 34 villages in this central Cambodia province in 1993 responding to the resettlement rights and needs of repatriates from the Khmer-Thai border. A few years later CWS transitioned focus from humanitarian assistance to community development partnership. Then, for the next two decades CWS staff and volunteers worked in partnership with families, communities and local government leaders on integrated programs focusing on food security, health, access to clean water and sanitation, emergency response when needed, and also demining.
As I presented CWS achievements in Kampong Thom over the last 24 years, I was struck by all the positive impact in the communities with which CWS has partnered through the years. For example, access to safe drinking water has significantly increased over the last decade. Today, almost 95% of communities that CWS has worked with have safe drinking water as a direct result of education CWS facilitated about how to treat water for safe drinking.
In addition, by educating communities about diversified and improved vegetable gardening, through seed and tool supplementation and composting, CWS has helped families decrease their food insecurity, which is measured by the amount of time they have access to enough food to meet minimum daily calorie and nutrition intake. In 2008, 86% of families experienced food insecurity; now that number has reduced significantly to 61%.
Access to antenatal care has also improved, with more than 93% of the mothers with whom CWS works visiting a health facility for antenatal care and safe delivery.
In all our efforts, CWS has worked side by side with local civil society partners, helping them expand their knowledge and abilities to lead development activities – in preparation, for when CWS will transition all our work to our empowered Cambodian partners.
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Mao Sophal is CWS Cambodia Country Representative.