ISLAMABAD - Federal Minister for Environment Hameedullah Jan Afridi has said the ministry was committed to promoting situation of health, hygiene and sanitation in the country. He told this to Martin Mogwanja, UNICEF country representative in Pakistan, who called on him here on Thursday. Ejaz Ahmed Qureshi, Secretary, Ministry of Environment, and Asif Shuja, Director General of Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency, were also present on the occasion. Martin apprised the Minister that the UNICEF, under the country programme 2004-2010, had signed an Annual Work Programme (AWP) for 2006-2008 with the Ministry of Environment, Government of Pakistan, to provide necessary support in implementation of Water, Environment and Sanitation Program (WES). The UNICEF representative informed Afridi that the programme was focused on provision of water and sanitation facilities, promotion of safe hygiene practices in schools (School WES), promotion of latrine and hygiene practices in communities (Community WES) and strengthening policy and legislative framework for water quality and water resources management. Martin maintained that the UNICEF was co-chair of the Thematic Working Group on Environment along with the UNDP, constituted in the UN Resident Co-ordinator office under the 'One UN Programme' to develop and finalise work programme on environment in consultation with all stakeholders, including the Ministry of Environment. Martin enumerated a number of activities in which the UNICEF supported the ministry, which included holding of holding the second South Asian Conference on Sanitation (SACOSAN) in September 2006 in Islamabad, formulation of National and Provincial Sanitation Policies and assistance in their implementation and establishment of Water and Sanitation unit in the ministry. The UNICEF was also supporting the federal and provincial governments in initiating various programs and projects for achieving the goals set under International Year of Sanitation (IYS-2008). The minister appreciated the support provided by the UNICEF and reiterated the need to further expand and reinforce the collaborative efforts between the UNICEF and the Ministry of Environment to effectively address the water and sanitation agenda in Pakistan. Afridi referred to a recent World Bank study, estimating annual cost on health due to inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene as much as Rs 112 billions, and stressed the need to offset the situation through launching of a comprehensive national programme.