Published On: Wed, Nov 19th, 2014

World Toilet Day today: 685,000 Pakistani children died since 2000 due to lack of toilets—WaterAid

By Amar Guriro

KARACHI, SINDH:
Carrying her ailing daughter in her lap, Kathirah, in her mid thirties, a housewife and mother of seven, has no enough money to take her child to any doctor, so she is treating her with home remedies. Her three year old daughter Daria is suffering with diarrhoea since past one two weeks. “I went a private small clinic in our area and doctors took Rs.100 (around $1) and beside some medicines, said that she must be given pollution free water, but I can’t afford bottle water and whatever the water we get from nearby shop is brackish and contaminated,” she said.

Her two children died in last three years of the same diseases, the—diarrhoea. Bengali speaking, Katriah lives in Machhar Colony, literally ‘Mosquito Colony’, which is suffering from worst sanitation, dumping of garbage, human waste and a huge sewerage drain that is chocked with solid waste. Majority of this country’s biggest slum with around 1 million population, are—what they call it, illegal immigrants including Afghan, Burmese and Bengali. In absence of the citizenship, they are unable to find jobs, so they work inside their colony, on the stores, which packs fish. Resident of this colony live a small house without having any toilets, as colony is officially declared as illegal slum, therefore state authorities are not providing proper sanitation system, healthcare, natural gas connection or other civic facilities. Most of the resident use open spaces, nearby huge drain and narrow street to defecate.

She and her fellow women in the colony are not aware that nations around the world, are observing today (November 19, 2014) as World Toilet Day, to raise awareness about the importance of toilets.
World Toilet Day is coordinated by UN-Water under the theme “Equality and Dignity” and the campaign will inspire action to end open defecation and put spotlight on how access to improved sanitation leads to a reduction in assault and violence on women and girls. The day is coordinated in collaboration with governments and relevant stakeholders including Pakistan, but it seems for the poor Pakistani, it is just an other international, which will bring no changes in their life.

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Around 42 percent of the Karachi’s total population living in 539 slums would observe World Toilet Day on Thursday without having access to a proper toilet and appropriate sanitation system. The worsening sanitation system has affected the health of these slum dwellers.
In Machhar Colony, most of the children are suffering with waterborne diseases and many have died, but there is no official data available.

According to the World Health Organization, 88 percent of cases of diarrhoea are attributable to a lack of access to basic sanitation, unsafe drinking water and poor hygiene provision. In total, over 12 million children are estimated to have died because of diarrhoeal diseases from 2000 to 2013 globally, with a lack of these services resulting in 10.6 million of these deaths.
Another report states that around 48 million Pakistani citizens basic toilet access is a distant dream and they defecate under the open skies and posing serious threats to environment and their act is a big hindrance to overcome national level challenges such as total sanitation and also to end diseases like polio, which is found only in Pakistan now.

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Health experts have apprehended that the colony could cause an epidemic of different viral diseases due to the worst sanitation conditions.
“The absence of proper sanitation system, dumping of garbage everywhere in the colony and human faces can cause many viral diseases including polio, malaria, dengue fever and also skin diseases,” said Dr Simeen Jamali, deputy director, Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC). Speaking about the agents of disease, she said that the worst conditions in the colony are a nursery for mosquitoes and flies that can cause several infections.

On World Toilet Day, around 35 prominent international health and development experts from different international organizations including WaterAid, the World Medical Association, the Global Health Council and others have called for an end to a crisis that has claimed the lives of over 10 million children under the age of five since the year 2000. Among them 685,000 were died in Pakistan alone.

In a statement issued by the WaterAid – a UK-based charity working in 27 countries across the globe to transform lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation, on Tuesday, quoting an open letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon, in which the signatories highlight the desperate waste of life caused by people not having access to a basic toilet, stated that without basic sanitation, children have no choice but to live and play in areas contaminated by human waste.
In the letter it is stated that over half the children in Pakistan do not have access to a basic toilet, which alongside unsafe drinking water and a lack of hygiene services, contributes to three of the main killers of children: undernutrition, pneumonia and diarrhoea.
The letter, coordinated by the international development organisation WaterAid, has been published to coincide with World Toilet Day, also highlights that the sanitation ‘crisis touches every moment of every child’s life, from birth to adulthood, if they are lucky enough to make it that far‘.
Talking to Balochistan Express, country representative of WaterAid-Pakistan, Siddiq Khan said that the dangers of poor sanitation and dirty water have been known for around 150 years, yet nearly 94 million people do not have a basic toilet to use in Pakistan, which harmsthe health of children and often leaves a lifetime legacy of disease and poverty.

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“Those children need our government to collectively step up and commit that by 2030 no home, hospital or school will be without a toilet and clean water.” Said Khan.
Further more the letter coincides with a new briefing released by WaterAid: ‘Child of Mine’ which states that sanitation ‘remains one of the most neglected issues in developing countries and international development aid’.
As the briefing highlights, this is despite a quarter of the 162 million children globally who have had their growth stunted and their physical and cognitive development impaired, because they suffered repeated bouts of diarrhoea when very young.
The release of the letter to the UN Secretary-General and the publication of the briefing come at a crucial time, as governments work to complete the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that run from 2000 to 2015, and negotiate the new Sustainable Development Goals, which will replace them. WaterAid Pakistan is calling on the Government to commit to backing a new goal for everyone everywhere to have access to clean water and basic sanitation by 2030.
The open letter includes the call for the UN Chief, Ban-Ki Moon ‘to lead the world to a future of better health, dignity and prosperity for all by championing a dedicated goal to deliver water and sanitation to everyone, everywhere by 2030.’

However, Talking to Balochistan Express, Abdul Hafeez, Programme Manager Policy and Advocacy, WaterAid-Pakistan said that the dangers of poor sanitation and dirty water have been known for around 150 years, yet more than 40 million people do not have a basic toilet to use in Pakistan, which harms the health of children and often leaves a lifetime legacy of disease and poverty.
“ Those children need our government to collectively step up and commit that by 2030 no home, hospital or school will be without a toilet and clean water,” he said.

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