About 60 per cent of the households in the country do not have sanitary latrines thus their inhabitants defecate in open places creating serious health hazards, according to a study of Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC).

"This practice of open defecation in combination with high population density and wet climate renders the surface water bodies pathogen loaded causing water-borne diseases mainly to the poor, and costing them about 80 million US dollars per annum," the study revealed, pointing to the fact that despite the almost universal use of handpumps for drinking, people use open waters frequently for bathing and other domestic purposes.

The report of WSSCC study on water supply and sanitation was presented at a "Position Paper Dissemination Seminar" at the BRAC auditorium in Mohakhali in the city on Monday.

Dr Shafiul Azam Ahmed, Consultant, Water Sanitation Programme supported by the World Bank, read out the report at the seminar while Dr Dibalok Sinha, National Coordinator, WSSCC Bangladesh, SMA Muslim, Chief Engineer, Department of Public Health Engineering and M Saidur Rahman, Joint Secretary of LGRD and Cooperatives, discussed the report analysing its various aspects.

A host of representatives from different national and international organisations including WHO, UNICEF, Water Aid, CARE Bangladesh, Coalition for the Urban Poor, DANIDA, NGO Forum, Proshika and Ahsania Mission were also present at the workshop.

The report said that about 29 million people in Bangladesh are presently drinking arsenic contaminated water at a great risk to health. "Keep it in mind that about 74 per cent of the total population uses tubewell water," it added.

According to the report, the level of knowledge on health and hygiene among the people particularly in the rural areas, was deplorable resulting in low sanitation practice. "Less than a third of the population practices hand washing with soap or ash after defecation," it claimed.

The report noted that budgetary allocation for water and sanitation in the country was much lower than that of other countries. It is only about 1.5 per cent in Bangladesh while it is 4 per cent in Nepal and 6 per cent Sri Lanka. The report suggested higher ADP allocation in this sector.

The report determined four priority areas to improve the water and sanitation situation in the country. The areas are targeting the poorest, achieving total sanitation, reaching the urban low-income communities and improving local level governance.

Source: The Independent, 11 June, 2002

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