Lahore  - An estimated 53,000 children die of diarrhoea every year in Pakistan because of lack of access to clean drinking water, a basic toilet or a safe way to deal with human waste, it has been learnt.

To highlight the importance of sanitation, WaterAid organised an event on World Toilet Day in Lahore in collaboration with HUD&PHED Government of Punjab, AWAZ- CDS, Plan International, Unicef and AGAHE yesterday, said a press release.

“Poor sanitation, apart from compromising dignity and safety of women, causes maternal malnutrition threatening lives of expecting mothers and the newborns,” it was highlighted

Education Minister Rana Mashhood was the chief guest while Rahila Khadam Hussain, Shameela Aslam, Dr Nausheen Hamid, Kiran Dar, Ramesh Singh Arora and Ayesha Javed were among the the attendees.

The minister said, “As Pakistan is the signatory of Sustainable Development Goals targeting 2030, urgent action is needed to achieve an end to malnutrition and universal access to water and sanitation. We call for: WASH to be integrated into Punjab nutrition and health strategies and plans with relevant targets and indicators to measure progress and outcomes”.

Speaking on the occasion Siddiq Ahmad Khan Country Representative WaterAid said, “Countries where open defecation is most widely practiced including Pakistan, are the same countries with the highest numbers of under-five child deaths, high levels of under-nutrition and poverty. By celebrating World Toilet Day we wish to create awareness of sanitation and its role in healthier life".

Mr. Zia Ur Rehman Chief Executive Awaz-CDS focused his speech on MDGs specially Goal Six and its indicators he shares that the Pakistan despite achieving the MDG target for sanitation still faces continuous challenges as 36% of people in Pakistan still do not have access to safe sanitation and 25 million people (13%) are defecating in the open. Population with Access to Sanitation: Punjab (78%), KPK (71%), Sindh (61%), Baluchistan (37%).Population with Improved water sources Punjab(95%), KPK(71%), Sindh(90%), Baluchistan(62%)

Rashid Javed, Country Director Plan International Pakistan said, “We can no longer wait, as poor sanitation and open defecation practices have a direct impact on a child's health and nutrition leading to stunting and underdevelopment. We all have an obligation to ensure that all Pakistani children are given the right to healthy start to life so they realize their full potential. Let’s pledge to help our children grow up healthy by providing them an open defecation free environment”

“On World Toilet Day, 17.5 million people in Punjab are forced to defecate in the open, risking disease and other dangers. Another 8 million people in the province do not have access to decent sanitation. We have a moral imperative to support the government to end open defecation, a duty to ensure women and girls are not at a risk of insecurity and children do not die with preventable diseases” shared by WASH specialist Unicef Sabahat Ambreen

Speaking on the occasion, Mubarak Ali CEO AGAHE said, “WASH sector partners in Pakistan are widely facilitating better access to water and sanitation services and are strongly positioned to continue and expand such work.