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UNICEF calls for children to be at centre of regional action on hygiene

Islamabad, 20 September 2006 - Children should be placed first in the debate on improving hygiene standards in South Asia, UNICEF told a top level meeting of policy makers today.

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 hand washing 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,” Ms. Lotse added.

On Thursday, 28 September, UNICEF will be launching “Progress for Children: a Report Card on Water and Sanitation.”  The report details the impressive progress made to date in expanding access to safe water and basic sanitation, but also makes clear that there is still a long way to go.

Note to editors:
The 2nd South Asian Conference on Sanitation is organised by the Ministry of the Environment, Government of Pakistan and is taking place from September 20-22 in Islamabad. The 1st SACOSAN took place in Dhaka, Bangladesh in October 2003 and aimed to accelerate progress on sanitation and hygiene.


For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 156 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:

Irene Sanchez, UNICEF-Pakistan: Tel + 92 (0) 300 856 4187
Sami Malik, UNICEF-Pakistan: Tel + 92 (0) 300 855 6654
Mary de Sousa: 92 (0) 300 854 6412




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