UNITED NATIONS, Nov 20 (APP): Pakistan reaffirmed at the United Nations on Thursday its “strong commitment” to provide adequate sanitation and hygiene for all in a bid to end open defecation by 2030 as the country moves towards reaching the Sustainable Development Goals .
Participating in a Panel discussion in connection with World Toilet Day, Pakistani delegate Tanveer Aslam Malik also said his country was committed to achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all in the next 15 years.
Among those taking part in the session, held in the ECOSOC Chamber, were: Mogen Lykketoft, President of the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly; Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, and Geeta Rao Gupta, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director.
“Sustainable sanitation is human right and a matter of dignity, equality, and safety is crucial for improving health and well-being of one-third of humanity who is deprived of this right,” said Tanveer Malik, who is minister for Housing, Urban Development, Public Health Engineering Department, Communication and Works Department in the Punjab government.
Pakistan, he said, was one of the 77 countries that have met the MDGs target for sanitation from 24% in 1990 to 64% in 2015 through concerted efforts of both the Government development partners, especially UNICEF. “This effort will indeed lead us to follow the post 2015 agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals 2 & 6 for both nutrition and sanitation.”
The minister said a Nutrition Strategy has been developed, considering Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) as its integral part. “Equity mapping has been conducted to address the inequities and linking access to outcomes in areas which includes universal health coverage, child mortality reduction and increase in gender equality and women’s empowerment.”
The minister briefed the gathering about the steps being taken by the government to improve the lives of the people, but said despite major achievements it faced key challenges, such as insufficient technical and financial resources to achieve ‘Open Defecation Free Environment’ by 2018 and scaling up low cost technological options to meet community needs.
In a message marking World Toilet Day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the world to work together and have an open frank discussion on the importance of toilets and sanitation, so that “we can improve the health and well-being of one-third of the human family.”
Echoing some of those sentiments, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) pointed out that lack of access to toilets is endangering millions of the world’s poorest children.
A new report, Improving Nutrition Outcomes with Better Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, produced by UNICEF, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the World Health Organization (WHO), for the first time brings together years of research and case studies which demonstrate the link between sanitation and malnutrition. More importantly, it provides guidance for action.
“We need to bring concrete and innovative solutions to the problem of where people go to the toilet, otherwise we are failing millions of our poorest and most vulnerable children,” said Sanjay Wijesekera, head of UNICEF’s global water, sanitation and hygiene programmes.
“The proven link with malnutrition is one more thread that reinforces how interconnected our responses to sanitation have to be if we are to succeed,” he added.
According to UNICEF, some countries, including Pakistan, Ethiopia, Mali, and Democratic Republic of the Congo have made significant progress in addressing both access to sanitation and the nutritional status of their children. Many have successfully used the agency’s Community-led Total Sanitation approach, in which affected populations themselves devise local solutions to the problem of open defecation.
“There are no excuses not to act on access to toilets, even in the poorest communities, or during emergencies,” Wijesekera said.”On the other hand, there are millions of reasons each one a child who is stunted or wasted, or worse, who sickens and dies to treat this with the urgency it deserves.”
The UN General Assembly, in a 2013 resolution on Sanitation for All designated 19 November as World Toilet Day The Day is coordinated by UN-Water in collaboration with Governments and relevant stakeholders.