By: Amar Guriro
KARACHI: On November 19 (tomorrow) as nations around the globe observe United Nations World Toilet Day to highlight the importance of toilets and sanitation; around 48 million Pakistanis will be defecating under the open skies.
Pakistan, despite being a nuclear power, is still unable to provide basic sanitation to majority of the people.
A recent report issued by Pakistan Chapter of UK-based charity – WaterAid-Pakistan revealed that 97,900 people die annually in Pakistan due to unsafe water and improper sanitation.
Another joint report by World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF stated 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 has been claimed in the report.
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.
Not this alone, but another study – the Joint Monitoring Programme of WHO and UNICEF states that 71 percent of Pakistan’s rural population does not have the facilities of improved sanitation, and 40 percent of the rural population resort to open defecation.
According to WaterAid, the poorest people in Pakistan, like other South Asian nations are being left behind and are 13 times less likely to have access to sanitation than the rich.
“Pakistan has the worst sanitary conditions in South Asia and its total economic impact amounts to a loss of Rs 343.7 billion, which is equivalent to around 3.9 percent of Pakistan’s gross domestic product (GDP),” reveals Media Scrap Book, a collection of around 100 selected stories published in print and electronic media, which is compiled by the WashMedia-South Asia – a representative body of journalists from Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka working on water, sanitation and hygiene.
The scrap book further revealed that 52,000 children die annually due to diarrhoea in Pakistan and 14 million people still do not have access to safe drinking water and over 90 million are without improved sanitation. “48 million people – nearly one fourth of the total population – in Pakistan practice open defecation,” the book mentions.
Karachi, the largest city of the country and the commercial hub, suffers a lot due to the lack of proper inadequate sanitation. The official data reveals that the 42 percent of the city’s total population live in 539 slums, which have no access to a proper toilet and appropriate sanitation system.
One of the most alarming consequences of poor sanitation is that, it is the biggest killer of children under the age of five around the world. Some 9.7 million children die before reaching the age of five, 2.4 million of them due to poor sanitation.
World Toilet Day 2013: Say thank you to your toilet
So what’s World Toilet Day all about?
World Toilet Day was set up to help raise awareness of the 2.5 billion people in the world who don’t have access to a safe, clean and private toilet. It is now recognised as an official UN day.
Why does it matter?
Because a toilet changes everything. Without a toilet, how can anyone hope to stay healthy? Germs in human waste spread disease and open defecation make living conditions intolerable. And, it’s not just about the unhygienic conditions, without a private toilet women and girls are vulnerable to human and animal attack.
Toilets are taken for granted and so they should be. They are one of the most basic human rights after all. We need to raise awareness of this crisis faced by millions every day, trapping them in a life of disease and indignity.
When is it? 19 November 2013
This year, we’re asking you to say Thank you toilet.
We’ve come up with a number of ways in which people can show their gratitude.
* Keep an eye out for posters and online banners leading up to World Toilet Day which are all about people getting engaged in the cause.
* On the day bring World Toilet Day to life in your office or school, raise awareness, collect funds and campaign for change. We have press releases ready for you to use to share your activities.
* Show your gratitude by sitting on the toilet all day. We’ve created a downloadable toilet seat, which sits perfectly on school or office chairs. Decorate them with your own message of thanks, hold an art competition and don’t forget to tell everyone that you’re working from the toilet today.
* This year, on World Toilet Day, please ask your MP to ask International Development Secretary Justine Greening to attend the 2014 High Level Meeting of the Sanitation and Water for All partnership, and encourage her counterparts in other governments to do the same.