Islamabad - Around 39000 children under the age of five die every year in Pakistan due to poor sanitation, speakers at seminar said the other day.

Minister for Climate Change, Zahid Hamid while addressing the launching ceremony of ‘Saaf Sehatmand Pakistan’ (Clean Healthy Pakistan), a nationwide campaign to promote healthy living by empowering members of the society with knowledge to change harmful practices linked water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH).

The minister said that Pakistan is fully committed to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda for 2030. The National Assembly of Pakistan is the first in the world that unanimously passed a resolution adopting the SDGs agenda as its own development agenda.

“It is not only reflects the broad political support the SDGs but also indicates this agenda is now Pakistan’s development agenda”, he said.

He said that hand washing with soap before eating and using toilet can reduce diarrhoea and respiratory diseases by 50 per cent.

Hand washing has positive impact over the growth of children, he said, adding that changing behaviours of people towards hygienic practices is one of the main tools for addressing this serious issue.

Hamid said that government was making efforts to improve the dire situation posed by improper sanitation and hygiene. Undoubtedly improving people hygienic behaviours is vital to this cause. “We must combine our expertise in the health, education, communication and community knowledge to raise and promote hygienic and safe practices, he said.

Siddiq Ahmad Khan, Country Director Water Aid said that 64 per cent access to sanitation and 91 per cent access to drinking water.

As many as 39000 children under the age of five die every year and three million people hit beds in hospitals.

Pakistan looses 4 per cent of its GDP because of sanitation and water related issues, he said. He urged people from all walks life need to join hands to raise awareness about hygienic practices.

Cristian Munduate, UNICEF deputy representative said that empowering people with the right information allows them to take appropriate action towards improving their hygiene practices.

Through initiatives such as this we must create a norm where everyone understands the importance of simple action like washing hands with soaps, she said.