SACOSAN 2: UNICEF calls for children to be at centre of Regional Action on Hygiene
Islamabad, September 20, 2006: Children should be placed first in the debate on improving hygiene standards in South Asia, a top level meeting of policy makers has been told.
Delegates from government ministries from Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives and Myanmar and other agencies dealing with water and the environment are meeting in Islamabad, Pakistan for the second Conference on Sanitation (SACOSAN).
In South Asia nearly a billion people still lack basic sanitation. Rapid urbanisation means that the number of people in cities without adequate toilets has increased from 134 million in 1990 to 153 million in 2004, yet the urban coverage is still double that of more rural areas.
The SACOSAN meeting aims to underline political commitment to improve sanitation in the region, share follow up actions to achieve results for the Millennium Development Goals while trading experiences on what works best.
Addressing the conference, UNICEF’s Regional Director for South Asia, Cecilia Lotse, said the region had high numbers of children who were malnourished and at risk from diseases caused by bad hygiene and, in particular, from lack of regular handwashing with soap and clean water.
Appealing for children to be placed first, Ms. Lotse emphasised the double dividends that occur when efforts are concentrated on sanitation. ‘Women and girls are safer when they do not have to go out of the house to use night soil sites,’ she said.
‘Since the first SACOSAN in 2003, around one hundred million additional people now have toilets, but that still leaves more than nine hundred and twenty million without. We also know that more girls will go to schools that provide separate and private facilities.’