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Lack of sanitation costs South Asia 5 percent GDP loss: Unicef

Monday April 04, 2011 09:00:18 PM, IANS

New Delhi: South Asian nations lose five percent of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually because of lack of sanitation facilities and unhygienic behaviour, the Unicef said Monday.

Presenting some alarming statistics at the South Asian Conference on Sanitation held in Colombo Monday, Daniel Toole, Unicef's regional director for South Asia, said that of the 1.5 billion people living in South Asia, 65 percent lack basic sanitation even today.

The three-day conference which began Monday saw the participation of senior ministers and secretaries of all the South Asian nations including India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Afghanistan and the Maldives.

It also saw the participation of officials of World Health Organisation (WHO), WaterAid, Water Supply Sanitation Collaborative Council besides civil society members working in the sector.

According to experts, Sri Lanka is the only country in the whole region where 95 percent population has been covered with improved sanitation facilities and the conference aims at learning and sharing from the success of Sri Lanka.

"There is no single recipe to address the problem in different nations in the South Asia but this at least provides a platform to these nations for formulation of their strategies with the help of expert civil society organisations working in the sector," said Dinesh Gunawardena, the Sri Lankan minister for water supply and drainage.

Clarissa Brocklehurst, Unicef global chief of water, sanitation and hygiene, said: "The burden of diarrhoeal deaths in South Asian countries is manifold in comparison to the burden of AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined together. Over 1.4 million deaths in this part of the world take place annually due to lack of sanitation, hygiene and water related diseases or injury".

The statement said that in July 2010, all governments in South Asia voted in support of a UN General Assembly resolution to declare water and sanitation a basic human right.

In order to ensure that the resolution is converted into legislation by the governments of South Asian countries, the civil society organisations decided in the conference to lobby for the same in their respective nations, the statement added.






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