ISLAMABAD - Federal Minister for Environment Hameedullah Jan Afridi has said that every year around the world 1.5 million children under five die of diarrhoea due to inadequate and unsafe water, poor sanitation, and insufficient attention to hygiene behaviours. He expressed these views while addressing a brainstorming workshop on National behavioural change communication strategy for drinking water supply and sanitation sector organised by Ministry of Environment in collaboration with UNICEF and USAID here on Wednesday. The Minister informed that according to estimate water, sanitation and hygiene related diseases cost Pakistans economy about Rs 112 billion per year, over Rs 300 million a day in terms of health cost and lost earnings. Out of this the cost associated with stomach-related diseases alone is estimated around Rs 55-80 billion per year, he further noted. He said that the poor sanitation and hygiene practices are also proving the barrier against tackling polio as the virus has been found to be transmitted through faeces of infected people then passed to others especially in situations of poor hygiene. Recognising the serious impacts of lack of sanitation, Afridi said that the Ministry of Environment prepared the national sanitation policy, which provides broad guidelines and recommendations for improving the water and sanitation conditions in Pakistan. I In addition, the minister said that the Ministry had also finalised the national drinking water policy, which aims at improving the quality of life through ensuring provision of adequate and safe drinking water at an affordable cost and in an equitable, efficient and sustainable manner. At the opening session of the workshop Janet Paz Castillo, Chief of Party, USAID, said that Pakistan had made important progress toward its repeated commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, and the investments and commitments the country had made to water resources and sanitation were a significant part of that progress, particularly, toward Goal 4 to reduce by 2/3 the mortality rate of children under the age of 5. The creation of water filtration centres, the establishment and support of a council of research in water resources, and the extensive network of community outreach through lady health workers and others are a few of the key strategies for reducing diarrheal disease and contributing to reaching MDG, Janet further noted. She said that behaviour change was a process that required a deep understanding of the barriers to change or the reasons for harmful behaviours for an individual, a community or an institution. She said that USAID was reaching nearly 30 million Pakistanis through the behaviour change communication strategy of the Pakistan safe drinking water and hygiene promotion project. Speaking on the occasion, Luc Chauvin, Officer-in-Charge, UNICEF Pakistan said that 80 percent all diseases are attributable to unsafe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene. The major diseases include diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid, hepatitis-A&E, trachoma, intestinal worms and others. Diarrhoea, which is a preventable and treatable water and sanitation related disease is the second leading killer of children globally, Luc Chauvin added.