KARACHI - Experts at a workshop, co-hosted by the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) and the Water and Sanitation Programme (WSP) of the World Bank, said poor sanitation, hygiene and lack of safe drinking water trigger a downward slide into poverty in the country.

A two-day national workshop was inaugurated on Monday to form synergies for achieving the sanitation related Millennium Development Goals in Pakistan.

As millions remain without adequate sanitation facilities in the country, the work shop brings together all stakeholders to assess the current situation about access to sanitation and to deliberate upon the course of action up to 2015 and beyond.

The workshop provides a platform to the government, semi-government and non-government partners to share experiences in developing and implementing various model programmes under the Pakistan Approach to Total Sanitation (PATS). The Workshop will also deliberate upon the agendas for the forthcoming major events on sanitation including the South Asian Conference on Sanitation (SACOSAN-V) and Pakistan Conference on Sanitation (PACOSAN II).   

"Poor sanitation, hygiene and lack of safe drinking water trigger a downward slide into poverty," said Maryam Aurangzeb, Member of the National Assembly and an environmentalist, who was the chief guest on the occasion. "Women and adolescent girls are disproportionately affected by lack of access to adequate sanitation. While efforts made by UNICEF, WSP and other partners in the sanitation sector are highly appreciable, I urge all partners to join hands and strive harder towards achieving the sanitation related MDGs in Pakistan."

During the course of the workshop, UNICEF will share the findings and evaluations of a large scale sanitation programme concluded by the organisation under PATS and also launch the findings of a base line study from its ongoing programme, 'Sanitation Programme at Scale in Pakistan' (SPSP).  

UNICEF calls upon the Government of Pakistan, bilateral and multilateral donors to make further commitments to the water and sanitation sector," said Dan Rohrmann, UNICEF Representative in Pakistan. "In addition to necessary investments, coordination and harmonization is crucial both for sustainable development and humanitarian response. Improved sanitation for all in Pakistan is achievable.

Let us make it a reality."

In collaboration with UNICEF, WSP has supported the provincial governments in designing large scale sanitation programmes in Pakistan. It has also contributed significantly to institutional capacity development of water and sanitation service providers in urban areas of the country. 

Inadequate sanitation causes Pakistan economic losses totaling US$ 5.7 billion which is equivalent to PKR 343.7 billion each year," said Masroor Ahmed, Senior Water and Sanitation Specialist WSP.

 "This is equivalent to 3.9 per cent of the country’s GDP as highlighted in a WSP report, The Economic Impacts of Inadequate Sanitation in Pakistan by the Water and Sanitation Program. All stake holders need to work together to scale up the pilot programmes and translate the sanitation policy principles into action for achieving the sanitation related MDG."

On the second and the last day, participants of the Workshop will put together recommendations for the future course of action.