Pakistan: sanitation crucial to survival for flood victims

Millions remain without proper sanitation in flood-affected Pakistan.

“Sanitation is ‘the invisible problem’ in disaster relief and by highlighting the problem, behaviour change happens,” according to Bill Fellows, the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) global cluster coordinator working with United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the WASH cluster lead agency.

Hygiene is four times as important as clean drinking water for preventing diarrheal disease according to research published in The Lancet medical journal [1]. Whilst in flood devastated Pakistan, access to clean drinking water is on the rise, thanks to the efforts of WASH cluster member agencies, with 2.5 million people receiving clean drinking water every day, the attention to sanitation has become critical in preventing disease outbreaks.

UNICEF, in cooperation with the government, is implementing hygiene education in relief camps through a “no open defecation campaign”. “This is based on a system developed in Bangladesh and helps affected communities take a first step to achieve basic sanitation in disaster affected communities”, said Fellows.

In addition, the hygiene education campaign includes teaching flood survivors to build open pit latrines. As part of the flood relief efforts 2,723 emergency latrines have been built, benefitting 40,000 people.

Female health workers and Pakistan Red Crescent volunteers are also on the frontline of hygiene education, which is one of the most critical components in reducing water-borne disease. To date, these volunteers have helped educate almost 750,000 people on the benefits of good hygiene.

To compliment hygiene education, soap and hygiene kits are needed. UNICEF reports 400,000 hygiene kits are in the pipeline along with three million bars of soap.

“It is crucial in disaster response that flood affected communities receive latrines and soap, as well as hygiene education to prevent illness and disease”, said Manuel Bessler, Head of the Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Pakistan.

In addition to water and sanitation flood relief activities, UNICEF and its partners are engaged in an integrated approach to provide humanitarian assistance to millions of flood survivors through health and nutrition, child protection, education and prevention of child trafficking.

[1] The same conclusion can be found in a recent article by Cairncross et al. in the International journal of epidemiology

Read the latest Pakistan Floods WASH-related news on ReliefWeb

Related web site: Global WASH Cluster

Source: ReliefWeb, 14 Sep 2010

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