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Pakistan 7th worst country in access to sanitation

November 23, 2017

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Students perform a tableau on the World Toilet Day. — Online
Students perform a tableau on the World Toilet Day. — Online

LAHORE: Pakistan is the seventh worst country in terms of access to basic sanitation, as its 42 per cent of the population remains without access to basic sanitation.

A report by WaterAid says 79 million people lack a decent toilet, while 37pc have no system for wastewater disposal, which leads to spread of diseases due to contamination of water and contact with human waste.

The Public Health Engineering Department (PHED), supported by Saaf Sehatmand Pakistan Campaign marked the World Toilet Day in Lahore, where they called attention to these issues.

“Despite the severity of the issue, sanitation remains a low priority area in the country. There is an immediate need to shift focus,” said PHED Secretary Muhammad Khurram Agah.

“One of the SDG targets is to ensure that everyone has access to a safely-managed household toilet by 2030. This makes sanitation central to eradicating extreme poverty,” he said.

The World Toilet Day is about an inspiring action to tackle the global sanitation crisis. In 2013, the UN General Assembly designated Nov 19 as the World Toilet Day. The day is coordinated by the UN-Water in collaboration with governments and partners.

Saaf Sehatmand Pakistan (Clean and Healthy Pakistan), is a five-year large-scale multi-layered national behaviour change campaign on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) that seeks to promote healthy living among the people by improving knowledge, attitudes, and practices related to safe drinking water, better sanitation and improved hygiene.

“Diseases spread by waste water and lack of sanitation increase the financial burden on families. This disadvantages the poorest. There is already a vast disparity in the country in terms of rural-urban access to basic sanitation facilities. If not addressed urgently, this will continue to keep many below the poverty line.

“The government takes ownership of the issue and will continue to work towards addressing this,” said Health P&D member Dr Shabana Haider.

“Improving funding and allocation of resources is at the heart of solving the sanitation and waste water problems in Pakistan. It is encouraging to see the government’s willingness and promise in this regard but more needs to be done to ensure we are able to achieve the SDG for sanitation and waste water management. Unless appropriate funding is diverted to these areas, long term, sustainable gains cannot be made,”said Siddiq Khan, country director of the WaterAid Pakistan.

“Pakistan’s efforts and commitment to improve sanitation need to be lauded. However, apart from sanitation, waste water disposal and treatment are also key in making progress towards the SDGs. For that to be achieved, we need systems that ensure that human waste is contained, transported, treated and disposed of in a safe and sustainable way, said Dr Haider.

Published in Dawn, November 23rd, 2017