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Over 16m People Living Without Access to Safe Water in Pakistan

"World Water Day today"

Islamabad: As the world celebrates World Water Day today (March 22), Pakistan is ranked 10th among the top 10 countries with regard to the numbers of people living without access to safe water. According to WaterAid’s report titled ‘Water: At What Cost? The State of the World’s Water 2016,’ there are 16.096 million people living without access to safe water in Pakistan.

Released on the occasion of World Water Day, the report offers a snapshot of access to water around the world in 2016, using stories from some of the worst-affected countries to illustrate some of the issues faced.

With regard to percentage of population living without access to safe water, the report ranks Pakistan at 124th position among total 199 countries with 8.6 per cent of population without safe water but with regard to number of people, Pakistan is placed at tenth position. India tops the list with 75.778 million people without safe water followed by China (63.167 million), Nigeria (57.757 million), Ethiopia (42.251 million), Democratic Republic of the Congo (33.906 million), Indonesia (32.286 million), United Republic of Tanzania (23.239 million), Bangladesh (21.088 million), Kenya (17.206 million people) and then Pakistan.

In percentage of population living without access to safe water, Papua New Guinea tops the list with 60 per cent population living without the facility followed by Equatorial Guinea (52 per cent) and Angola (51 per cent population). Cambodia, Mali and Lao People’s Democratic Republic tops the list of 15 most improved country for increasing safe water access since 2000.

The report says that more than 650 million of the world’s poorest people are living without access to an ‘improved’ source of drinking water. The price paid by these communities – in wasted income, ill-health, and lost productivity – is extremely high, and has a devastating impact from the family to the national level.

It states that in 16 countries, more than 40 per cent of the population does not have access to even a basic water facility such as a protected well. People from impoverished, marginalised communities have no choice but to collect dirty water from open ponds and rivers, or spend large chunks of their income buying water from vendors. This water is always a health risk; in many cases, it proves deadly. Globally, diarrhoeal diseases caused by dirty water and poor sanitation are the second biggest child killer after pneumonia, taking 315,000 young lives every year.

According to the report, water resources are becoming increasingly fragile as populations grow, land use changes and deforestation continues. These threats will be exacerbated by the effects of climate change and have a disproportionately large impact on poor people without a safe, reliable water supply. Ignoring this reality is not an option.

It claims that to install a basic water facility and functioning toilet, and keep them going for 10 years, can cost as little as £70 per person. And, for every £1 invested in water and sanitation, an average of at least £4 is returned in increased productivity, primarily based on improved health and more time to work. Besides that around 315,000 children’s lives could be saved every year, and many more children would have the nutrition they need to grow and live full lives.

The report further mentions that achieving the Global Goals for Sustainable Development will be impossible in a world where one in ten people are trapped in a cycle of poverty and disease for want of a safe, affordable water supply of their own.

“This is an era of unprecedented progress in spreading access to clean water – 2.6 billion have been reached since 1990 – but far too many have been left behind. As the world begins to work towards the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, we show the need, and offer solutions, for reaching everyone everywhere with safe water,” mentions the report.

World leaders are committed to reaching everyone everywhere with safe water and sanitation by 2030 – this is Goal 6, signed off in September 2015 by all 193 UN member states as part of the 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development.

At the end of the report, the WaterAid urged the governments to bring about a dramatic and long-term increase in public and private financing for water, sanitation and hygiene, building the strong national systems needed to achieve universal access to sustainable services. It also called upon the donor governments to target crucial aid at the countries and communities that need it most, and align it to national systems and plans with aid reaching the poor and marginalised on priority basis.

It also recommends more effective private public partnership to achieve universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene in workplaces, communities, and throughout supply chains with an integrated an integrated approach, ensuring that improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene services is embedded in plans, policies and programmes on health, nutrition, education, gender equality and employment.

Article by Myra Imran Published in The News International on March 22, 2016

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