By: Ramzan Chandio
KARACHI – WaterAid in Pakistan has welcomed pledges from the government of Pakistan to provide 20 million people with access to adequate sanitation and 14.4 million with access to an improved water source by 2015.The pledges were made in Pakistan’s Country Commitment, tabled at a high level meeting of sanitation and water held in Washington DC. Muhammad Javed Malik attended the meeting as the representative of the Prime Minister of Pakistan from April 19-20, 2012.Siddiq Ahmad Khan WaterAid’s Country Representative in Pakistan said: “These are crucial commitments made by the Pakistani government. They put the country on the course to universal access to water and meeting the sanitation Millennium Development Goal. WaterAid along with other stakeholders will actively engage with government to support and monitor commitments made during the High Level Meeting.”Abdul Hafeez, Manager Policy and Advocacy at WaterAid in Pakistan said: “The upcoming budget at Federal and Provincial level will be a great opportunity for the Government of Pakistan to honour its commitment by putting a dedicated water and sanitation budget line and increase financial allocation for the sector.” Pakistan was one of over 50 governments represented at the Sanitation and Water of All Sector Ministers Meeting from April 19-20. The Pakistan statement of commitments tabled at the meeting includes 10 specific action points which include prioritising Sanitation and drinking water within a sector-wide approach, develop a national sector action plan by December 2013, to increase funding from the PRSP to water supply and sanitation by one percent by 2015, to mobilize external assistance for an additional US$200 million annually for water and sanitation, to conduct a sector capacity development needs assessment by December 2012 and to establish a national monitoring framework for sanitation and drinking water by 2013.Applauding the pledges from the South Asian Ministers that if delivered would provide 48.5 million people with access to these essential life-saving services across the region. These commitments if realised mean that the Governments will need to strive over the next two years to increase access to water by 5 percent and sanitation by seven percent in their countries.The figures for increased access to water of 20.2 million people and sanitation of 28.3 million people have been calculated by WaterAid, a partner of the SWA initiative. These figures have been released at the conclusion of the High Level Meeting that brought together a hundred developing and donor country ministers and officials from over 50 countries. WaterAid’s discussion document, Saving Lives, shows that by meeting the Millennium Development Goal on sanitation by 2015, the lives of over 84,000 children under the age of five would be saved in South Asia. At the current rate of progress, the continent is not expected to reach the sanitation MDG target until the year 2030, 15 years late.WaterAid’s Chief Executive, Barbara Frost stated, “A lack of safe sanitation and water and the diarrhoea it causes is the second biggest killer of children in South Asia. Ministers in the region are committed to do more to reach people with water and sanitation services, and their pledges to strive for increased access for nearly 50 million people are much welcomed. The key challenge now will be putting in place and delivering the national plans in a timely fashion to make these commitments a reality.”WaterAid has also strongly welcomed the announcement from the UK Secretary of State for International Development, the Rt. Hon. Andrew Mitchell MP that the UK is doubling the number of people they intend to reach with water, improved hygiene and sanitation by 2015, from 30 million to at least 60 million people. Mustafa Talpur, regional advocacy manager WaterAid South Asia urged on all the government in South Asia to avail the regional and global opportunities coming up to end the undignified conditions of their citizens’ by pro-actively planning, investing and targeting national resources for sanitation and putting a better monitoring plan to measure the results. Alongside the baseline pledges ‘to strive’ towards increasing access to water by 5 percent and sanitation by 7 percent made by all the developing country governments participating in the High Level Meeting, governments have also tabled their own country commitments as part of this meeting. The Pakistani Government has committed to reach 20 million people by 2015 with access to sanitation to achieve its MDGs targets and 14.4 million people to reach 100 percent coverage for improved drinking water, while the Bangladeshi Government has also committed to increasing the allocation for sanitation and water supply in the development budget by 50 percent.Talpur added that these commitments re-enforce the promises earlier made in regional platform such as SACOSAN-IV in Colombo and 17th Saarc summit-The challenge is translating political aspirations into reality-hence the test will be prioritizing sanitation in next budgets, promoting institutional accountability through information sharing and citizens’ participation and focusing on excluded groups. Talpur urged upon the key regional donors such as Asian Development Bank and World Bank to prioritize basic sanitation in their sectoral plans. Currently banks supports big water resources development programmes and urban waste water treatment system, which are also essential but nearly 700 million people in the region do not have basic toilet-hence proportionate investment that reaches to poor and marginalized is only possible by investing in community based sanitation systems.