Nepal: Sanitation finally a priority

The diarrhoea that spread earlier in 2009 in 18 districts across Nepal killed nearly 300 people; nearly six months after the initial outbreak, four ministries have finally made a joint commitment to launch a massive water and sanitation campaign to meet the state’s target of providing complete sanitation to all by 2017.

“We were not able to launch all components of water and sanitation in a comprehensive manner earlier, which is why we had diarrhea-related deaths every year,” said Dr. Babu Ram Marasini, chief of health sector reform unit at the Ministry of Health.

The programme was launched on Global Handwashing Day on 15 October 2009 as a comprehensive and combined effort by the Ministries of Health, Education, Physical Planning and Works, and Local Development. The programme will see extension of the construction of latrines in all 75 districts, awareness programmes, establishment of a national sanitation fund among others, according to Kamal Adhikari, an official at the Department of Water Supply and Sewerage. Adhikari also said that the ministries have planned to review the existing policies to provide complete sanitation to all by 2017.

According to a report by WaterAid, about 14.2 million people do not have access to sanitation and 7.1 million lack access to safe drinking water and sanitation in the country; similarly, according to the Ministry of Health, 54 percent of the country does not have access to latrines. Likewise, only 37 percent wash their hands, and only 12 percent use soap. Also, 45 percent of deaths caused by avoidable diseases is because of unsafe drinking water and lack of sanitation. “Earlier, we used to implement programmes related to water and sanitation separately but we are now planning to go ahead in a joint and comprehensive manner,” said Adhikari.

Source: The Kathmandu Post; The Rising Nepal; Gorkhapatra; Naya Patrika; Annapurna Post; Kantipur; Nepal Samacharpatra / NGO Forum, 15 Oct 2009

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