Community-Led Inclusive Climate-Resilient (CLICR) WASH

Water for Women partners with Thrive Networks / East Meets West and partners in Cambodia to integrate climate change adaptation knowledge and practical actions to promote resilient and inclusive water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in households and communities in the climate-vulnerable provinces of Kampong Cham, Kampong Chhnang, Kratie, Prey Veng, Pursat and Tboung Khmum.


Cambodia faces significant climate risks, particularly related to the hydrological cycle. Based on several international climate change indices, Cambodia is one of the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change. Cambodia faces high disaster risks from flood and drought due to both high levels of exposure and vulnerability, ranked 55th of 191 countries by the 2019 Inform Risk Index.[1]


Cycles of flooding and drought are already increasing in both frequency and intensity. In 2011, floods affected more than 1.5 million people in 18 of the 24 provinces and caused damage equating to more than 1% of the country’s gross domestic product. In 2013, floods hit 20 provinces, affecting some 1.5 million people and claiming 168 lives.[2] During 2015-2017, droughts resulted in less rainfall, warmer weather, and delayed or shortened monsoons, limiting water supplies for communities and the services and sectors reliant on them, affecting approximately 2.4 million people.[3] Drought severely impacts communities that are dependent on agriculture for food security and livelihoods — predominantly those in rural areas.


Both extremes of flooding and drought significantly impact the accessibility and quality of WASH services, exacerbating existing disparities between urban and rural areas and inequities for girls, women, the poor and people with disabilities. Across Cambodia, 90% of the poor reside in rural areas and 4% of the population lives with a disability.

A man holds a stick in floodwater to measure its depth in rural Cambodia

The effects of floods in Dang Tong village, Prey Veng province, Cambodia. Poor and vulnerable people and WASH enterprises who live and operate in Cambodia’s rural areas experience all types of climate hazards, which have increased due to climate change. Floods affect latrine use and faecal sludge management, leading to contamination of the environment and restricted access to latrines (Thrive EMW / IV Bunthoeun)


Climate-related risks to water, sanitation and hygiene

More than 25% of Cambodia’s population lives in environments affected by seasonal floods and high groundwater,[4] which pose risks for water sources and sanitation systems — rendering WASH infrastructure vulnerable to disruption, destruction or abandonment, and bringing increased risk of saline intrusion and incidence of water-borne diseases.

Drought brings extended dry seasons, warmer weather and delayed or shortened monsoons, impacting rainfall and water availability. Lack of access to water directly impacts household hygiene behaviours, including handwashing at critical times, as well as the functionality of sanitation systems like common pour flush and flush latrines. 

Approximately 76% of the population lives in rural areas,[5] however around 61% of the rural population has only basic sanitation coverage and about 25% still practices open defecation.[6] Climate change exacerbates WASH inequities.

“The CLICR WASH project strongly contributes to… climate resilience and… better water supply services in high-climate risk areas.”

Ms. Sokunthea Toch, Cambodian Water Supply Association (CWA) Program Coordinator


The project locations cover 23 communes in six climate-vulnerable provinces of Cambodia, taking in a combined population of approximately 5.4 million[7] and a diversity of situations. Kratie and Kampong Cham lie along the Mekong River mainstream, Tboung Khmum in the central lowlands of the Mekong, Prey Veng downstream in the Mekong Basin, and Pursat and Kampong Chhnang in the Tonle Sap basin. During the rainy season, communities within the lower Mekong basin experience water-induced disasters from storms, heavy rainfall, and runoff from the northern mountains, which cause seasonal flooding and overflow of the Mekong River and its tributaries, including Lake Tonle Sap.


According to the Ministry of Rural Development’s 2019 guidance principles for sanitation in challenging environments, all six project locations are severely or medium affected[8] by the impacts of climate change.

A map of Cambodia with regions of operation highlighted


The CLICR WASH project aims to integrate climate change adaptation knowledge and practical actions at household and community levels.

Building on the successes and achievements of the Women-Led Output Based Aid project from 2018 to 2022, Thrive Networks / East Meets West is leveraging relationships with governments, private sector businesses, community and rights holder groups to deliver transformative and scalable outcomes that reduce climate change impacts on communities before they occur and that are sustainable.

From 2023-2024, CLICR WASH aims to deliver lasting impact through:

  • Capacity building of national and provincial stakeholders on climate-resilient, inclusive water safety and sanitation for rural communities in high climate-risk locations, including support to the Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation and the Ministry of Rural Development on climate-resilient water safety planning (CR-WSP)
  • Capacity building of district and commune level stakeholders on climate-resilient inclusive WASH, including development of CR-WSP by seven communes and implementation of sanitation, handwashing, and menstrual health and hygiene projects
  • Targeted private sector capacity-building enabling four female piped water system operators to manage their water systems under a CR-WSP and expand connections to 1,000 poor households, and seven latrine suppliers and 15 masons to construct climate-resilient latrines, including appropriate designs for customers with disabilities
  • Support for 2,000 vulnerable households in 23 high-climate-risk communes to construct or upgrade latrines for climate-resilience, and 1,050 households in three of the communes to implement water safety plans, such as rainwater catchment, water storage and well protection, with consideration of women and disabled household members’ needs
  • Increased women’s leadership in WASH, with 46 female community members equipped to train or mobilise households in climate-resilient and inclusive WSP and sanitation, and increased participation of the rights holder organisations, the Women’s Organization for Modern Economy and Nursing (WOMEN), the Cambodian Disabled People’s Organization and SILAKA in government WASH technical and decision-making groups and forums
  • Increased capacity of 10,000 girls and women to manage their menstrual health, including with respect to climate considerations
  • Knowledge development and sharing beyond the project locations and duration, through CLICR technical reference materials, tools, guides and reports, including in relation to gender equality, disability and social inclusion and women’s leadership development.


“The CLICR WASH project strongly supports WOMEN partner[s] to promote community people addressing climate resilience by working in partnership[s] with subnational government departments and local authorities for sustainably [managed] natural resources, i.e. preservation of community forests, water sources, fisheries and natural wildlife.”

Sarith Chea, WOMEN President

a woman accesses water from a newly piped connection at her home

In a commune of Chamkar Leu district, Kampong Cham province, a woman accesses water from a newly piped connection at her home. The household previously relied on water from a nearby relative’s hand dug well (CWA)

 View more photo updates from Water for Women projects in Cambodia.


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This project is an extension of Women-Led Output Based Aid delivered from 2018-2022.

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Climate change impacts, adaptation measures and inclusive resilience systems in WASH

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WASH-related climate challenges for this project

  • The connection between WASH and climate change still lacks evidence, is ill-defined and generally poorly understood by key stakeholders in Cambodia.
  • Across the six project locations, less than half the population has access to improved sanitation facilities[9] and up to 40% lacks access to water from an improved water source.[10] Drinking water is sourced mainly from tube wells and boreholes, followed by stored rainwater, piped water connections located outside the dwelling, bottled water, and surface water from rivers, streams or the lake. The impacts of flood and drought on water sources are well understood, affecting the quantity, quality and accessibility of safe water for WASH, food production, agriculture and other essential sectors.
  • Across the project locations, some 81% of households live in challenging environments that face drought (40%); flood (24%) and related events, such as intense rain and hurricanes; confront water scarcity (1%) and/or hardground conditions that present sanitation system challenges; and almost 4% are affected by more than one hazard.[11]
  • Flush or pour flush pit latrines are the most common type of toilet used by households. At least 7.3% do not have a toilet; of those that do, only 0.7% have a toilet connected to a septic tank; about 14% share a toilet with others outside their household; 11% are unable to access a toilet at all times, and at least 5.9% still practice open defecation. Of those that have ever emptied their pit latrine, 45% emptied the contents into an open environment such as open ground, a water body, or by uncovering the pit.[12]
  • Women and children in more than half of the households[13] across the project locations are responsible for water collection, which impacts their ability to participate in social, educational and economic opportunities.
  • While the Royal Government of Cambodia’s National Action Plan aims to ensure every Cambodian has access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene by 2025, open defecation is still widely practiced in rural areas and many communities rely on water from unimproved sources, which contributes to some 200 deaths of children under five annually linked to diarrhoea from dirty water and poor toilets.[14]
  • The predicted El Niño climate pattern is expected to bring warmer and drier than average conditions during the monsoons (typically May–October), which usually brings between 80%–90% of the country’s annual rainfall.[15]

School children gather for group work on menstrual health and hygiene facilitated by their teacher (Thrive Networks / East Meets West / Kim Hor)




CLICR WASH aims to reach the following beneficiaries by the end of 2024:

Direct beneficiaries: 27,507*

  • women and girls: 19,027 
  • men and boys: 8,480 
  • people with a disability: 825

Indirect beneficiaries: 56,202*



water for women logo

Thrive EMW logo
Cambodian Water Supply Association (CWA) logo
Women’s Organization for Modern Economy and Nursing (WOMEN) logo
Cambodian Disabled People’s Organization (CDPO) logo

Australia's development assistance program is investing in Cambodia to achieve these outcomes. Water for Women is proud to be partnering with Thrive Networks / East Meets West and local partners including Cambodian Water Supply Association (CWA), Cambodian Disabled People’s Organization (CDPO), Women’s Organization for Modern Economy and Nursing (WOMEN) and SILAKA in Cambodia.

*Project targets are based on partner Civil Society Organisations (CSO) baseline studies. Project targets are updated periodically in response to changes in context as appropriate. To see our latest progress towards targets, see our progress.

Feature image: A participant presents a problem tree in gender responsive budgeting training (Silaka)


[1] The World Bank Group, Climate Risk Country Profile: Cambodia, Asian Development Bank, 2021.

[4] Water for Women, Making the Critical Connections between Climate Resilience and Inclusive WASH: Lessons from water for Women, Water for Women and the Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney, Melbourne, 2021.  

[5] The World Bank Group, Climate Risk Profile: Cambodia.

[6] World Health Organization and UNICEF, JMP Household Sanitation data: Cambodia, Rural and urban sanitation service levels in 2020, WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (website), accessed June 2023.

[7] Population according to the 2019 Census: Pursat 405,000; Kampong Chhnang 546,000; Kampong Cham 2,050,000; Prey Veng 1,056,000; Tboung Khmum 1,000,000; Kratie 353,000.

[8] Royal Government of Cambodia, National Guiding Principles on Sanitation in Challenging Environment for Rural Household, Cambodia Ministry of Rural Development, July 2019.

[9] According to the 2019 Census, percentage of population with access to improved sanitation: Pursat 45.2%; Kampong Chhnang 47.7%; Kampong Cham 41.2%; Prey Veng 29.3%; Tboung Khmum 28.9%; Kratie 31.7%.

[10] According to the 2019 Census, percentage of population with access to an improved water source: Pursat 75.5%; Kampong Chhnang 63.5%; Kampong Cham 59.8%; Prey Veng 68.9%; Tboung Khmum 69.8%; Kratie 66.0%.

[11] L Pham et al., Report of the Survey with Households and Local Authorities in Rural Cambodia on WASH, Climate Change and Adaptation, Thrive Networks / East Meets West, April 2022.

NB: 423 households participated in a survey conducted in the research project, Climate change impacts, adaptation measures, and inclusive resilience system in WASH: A case study of marginalised communities in rural Cambodia, under the Women for Water Fund Innovation and Impact project.

[12] L Pham et al., Report of the Survey with Households and Local Authorities in Rural Cambodia on WASH, Climate Change and Adaptation.

[13] L Pham et al., Report of the Survey with Households and Local Authorities in Rural Cambodia on WASH, Climate Change and Adaptation.

[14] WaterAid, Where we work: Cambodia, WaterAid (website), n.d., accessed June 2023.

[15] World Bank Group, Climate Risk Country Profile: Cambodia.

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