It's exactly one year since the first full commune in Cambodia was declared open defecation free, a major milestone for SNV's drive to improve water, sanitation and hygiene.

An anniversary event was organized to celebrate the remarkable achievement of Trapeang Sala Khang Lech commune, the very first open defecation free (ODF) commune in Cambodia, which has sustained the programme’s results over the past year. Before the Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene for All (SSH4A) programme started, open defecation was common practice in Trapeang Sala Khang Lech commune. Just 24% of the households had access to a toilet, and people’s awareness of the importance of improved sanitation and hygiene was low. 

Today all households living in Trapeang Sala Khang Lech commune's five villages have access to and are using toilets. Mr. Kob Phoeun, Commune Chief of Trapeang Sala Khang Lech stated: "At first, we didn’t think we could do it. But now we have! It is an effort from everyone, including commune and all the villages, because it is good for all." The lessons from this commune have reinforced understanding that success requires an integrated approach that includes leadership at the district, commune and village levels. This drives the community's own sense of motivation and commitment to ending open defecation for good. 

Keathavong primary school students won attention at the ceremony with a role–play about everyone’s roles and responsibilities in improving sanitation and hygiene practices. The performance showed how he commune has taken the lead in conducting regular meetings to update people on progress and share any concerns related to sanitation and hygiene.

As highlighted by Mr. Seng Chhaung, Director of the Provincial Department of Rural Development: "This is the result of the commune’s strong commitments and efforts in staying open defecation free in all the five villages and ensuring that all the people in the commune keep using toilets and practicing good hygiene." H.E Mrs Teng Youky, Hygiene Promotion Advisor of MRD, also congratulated Trapeang Sala Khang Lech commune for its great results and setting an example for other communes.

After the open defecation free declaration in October 2013, Trapeang Sala Khang Lech commune developed its own Post-ODF action plan. It established a committee to ensure that sanitation and hygiene are not only maintained, but continuous efforts and actions are taken to further improve the situation in all the villages. The committee includes representatives from the commune council, all the villages, plus schools, the health centre and pagoda.

At the anniversary ceremony, SNV Cambodia, PDRD and the local authorities reconfirmed the joint commitment to achieve accelerated impact in rural sanitation and hygiene in Banteay Meas district and to ensure it will be the first full district in Cambodia to be declared open defecation free by 2015.

The ceremony was attended by representatives from the Ministry of Rural Development, the Kampot Provincial Department of Rural Development, the Banteay Meas District Department of Education. Joining them were the Deputy Governor of Banteay Meas District, commune councils, village chiefs, monks, school directors and teachers, SNV Country Director for Cambodia and SNV's WASH team.