Over 43 million people in Pakistan defecate in the open
Toilets are still out of reach for more than one-third of the global population. In Pakistan, more than 43 million people defecate in the open, with devastating consequences for the health and development of children, says the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) on World Toilet Day, which is being observed worldwide today (Tuesday).
“Access to toilets remains the unmentionable, often shameful secret in Pakistan,” said Miriam de Figueroa, Unicef’s deputy representative in Pakistan. “But it’s invisibility doesn’t make it less harmless; in fact, it is quite the reverse especially as poor sanitation conditions contribute to malnutrition and the high level of stunting in Pakistan and provide a fertile ground for spreading the polio virus. Lack of access to safe sanitation is quite literally killing Pakistani children – day after day after day.” “Every action which spurs people to change their way of dealing with defecation brings us closer towards the goal of sanitation for all. It is not easy, but it is certainly doable, and moreover, it is absolutely indispensable,” Figueroa said. Every 24 hours, 320 children in Pakistan die from diarrhoea – the result of a deadly combination of unsafe water and poor sanitation conditions. Water and sanitation related diseases are responsible for some 60 per cent of the total number of deaths of children under five years of age.
Diarrhoea contributes to and aggravates malnutrition, which is an underlying cause of more than half of all the deaths of children under five. Poor sanitation also has a serious impact on children’s right to education when children miss school due to water and sanitation related diseases. In addition, girls tend to drop out of school and female teachers may not work where there are no gender-segregated toilets. Women, as the primary caregivers of sick children, have less time to care for other children and to do other work, when they have to care for the ill. Water, sanitation and hygiene related diseases cost Pakistan’s economy an estimated Rs112 billion each year. This economic loss is due to labour hours lost or reduced productivity, with household and public resources being diverted to curative services.
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