By Amar Guriro
KARACHI – For around 48 million Pakistani citizens basic toilet access is a distant dream and they defecate under the open skies, according to the WaterAid – a UK-based charity working in 27 countries across the globe to transform lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation.
This was disclosed in a report released on Friday – the eve of World Toilet Day – by WaterAid-Pakistan titled “Off-track, off-target: Why investment in water, sanitation and hygiene is not reaching those who need it most”. World Toilet Day 2011 will be observed globally today (Saturday), with over 51 events being hosted by various water and sanitation advocates in 19 countries. The WaterAid-Pakistan report also reveals that 97,900 people die annually in Pakistan due to unsafe water and improper sanitation.
Quoting official data from World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF, it is stated in the report that 54,000 children under the age of five die from diarrhoea every year in Pakistan.“By the year 2015, under the Millennium Development Goal (MDG), Pakistan is committed to supply 93 percent and 64 percent of its population with safe water and adequate sanitation, respectively. As yet, only 45 percent people have access to improved sanitation facilities in Pakistan and at the current rate, the water target will be missed at least by seven years [by 2022] and the sanitation target by 13 years [by 2028],” it is claimed in the report.
The “off-track” nations in South Asia should spend at least one percent of their gross domestic products on providing sanitation services and the donor countries should double the global aid for water, sanitation and hygiene by prioritising an additional US$10 billion per year.
If the Pakistani government does not take urgent action, the country will fail to meet the MDG pledge it made to halve the proportion of people without sanitation by 2015, and this will have massive consequences for child mortality.
According to WaterAid, the poorest people in South Asia are being left behind and are 13 times less likely to have access to sanitation than the rich. “The governments should tackle this inequity through better targeting of water and sanitation resources and services to the poor.” In a statement, the WaterAid’s country representative in Pakistan, Siddiq Khan, said that every year thousands of children die in Pakistan due to a lack of adequate sanitation and clean water. “This is the true cost that we bear from our failure to ensure basic water and sanitation services,” stated Khan. “The government must demonstrate political and institutional leadership in carrying out its responsibilities at federal and provincial levels.” “We must increase the level of spending on water and sanitation – and with the donors increasing their share of aid – we can work together to turn this situation around,” the WaterAid representative said.