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ISLAMABAD: Over 100 representatives of national and international organisations and development partners participated on Monday in the inaugural session of the National Urban Sanitation Workshop held to deliberate on the issues related to urban sanitation.

The event was organised by the Ministry of Climate Change, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB).

The statistics shared by the speakers at the event suggested that the recent catastrophic floods in the country badly damaged sanitation, water and hygiene facilities with an estimated cost of around $182 million.

Over 5.4 million people (16 percent) from 33 million people in flood-affected 84 districts moved from the use of protected to unprotected drinking water sources, and 6.3 million people (19 percent) lost household sanitation with an estimated 950,000 household latrines.

The speakers said that Pakistan made significant sanitation progress in the last decade reducing open defecation from 36 percent in 2010 to 7 percent in 2020. In urban areas, basic sanitation coverage is 82 percent however, data on safely managed sanitation is not available. Lack of safely managed sanitation systems in the country has led to the contamination of most drinking water sources, they said.

Speaking on the occasion, Nasir Javed, a sector specialist, said, approximately one child dies every 10 minutes due to poor sanitation. The cost of poor sanitation is a loss of 3.96 percent of Pakistan’s GDB, which is approximately $5.7 billion, he added.

Sana Rusool, Director Environment, Ministry of Climate Change, said that more than 15 million people still practiced open defecation in Pakistan, which, she said, was a public health crisis.

Inoussa Kabore, Deputy Representative of UNICEF Pakistan, highlighted that urban sanitation was at the center of UNICEF’s WASH programming in its next country programme. “As part of the overall UN cooperation framework with the government of Pakistan, UNICEF leads the social services pillar and access to sanitation is one of the priorities. I, therefore, want to reiterate our commitment and support to the government as it seeks to accelerate the provision of safely managed, equitable and climate-resilient water, sanitation, and hygiene services targeting the vulnerable and marginalized, children and women,” he said.

Hammad Hundal from IsDB Regional Hub Turkiye said that the Islamic Development Bank was committed to supporting its member countries to achieve their national SDG targets. “IsBD has allocated $8 billion so far for the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene sector. We seek to expand our collaborations in Pakistan for boosting recovery, tackle poverty, building resilience, and drive green economic growth as per IsDB’s strategy. I foresee this workshop would be a stepping stone to discussing and planning actions for addressing urban sanitation challenges in Pakistan,” he added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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