Members states of the South Asia Conference on Sanitation (SACOSAN) have vowed to establish baselines and targets related to water and sanitation for health (WASH) in accordance with sustainable development goals (SDGs).
In a declaration signed at the end of the 7th SACOSAN conference held in Islamabad last week, member states committed to eliminating open defecation and providing universal basic and safe sanitation services.
Further, the 10-point declaration stated that member states would align their national and sub-national policies with the SDGs relevant to WASH sector. It said that evidence would be generated for WASH-related inequalities existing along geographic areas, and vulnerable groups and income levels, to ensure improved targeting of interventions.
Other points of the declaration were about development of human resources, regulatory mechanisms and institutional arrangements, and advocacy plans.
The declaration also called for promotion of climate resilience sanitation and hygiene technologies.
The 7th SACOSAN conference took place from April 11 -13, 2018, in Islamabad. The three-day event was attended by representatives from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan.
SACOSAN is a government-led biennial convention that is held on a rotational basis in each member country and provides a platform for discussion on sanitation and hygiene issues. The aim of the conference is to develop a regional agenda on sanitation, enabling learning from past experiences of other countries and setting actions for the future.
During the 7th conference, Pakistan’s Minister of Climate Change Mushahidullah Khan said good sanitation said a lot had been achieved during the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) era by South Asian countries, with Pakistan, Maldives and Sri Lanka achieving the MDG sanitation targets. “However, 500 million people in South Asian countries still face sanitation issues. The rate of open defecation remains higher than those of other poorer countries and regions in the world,” he noted.
Speakers agreed that widespread open defecation in South Asia was a public health emergency, causing profound negative impact on the productivity of the future workforce. The diseases spread by poor sanitation kill hundreds of South Asian children each year and stunt the physical and cognitive development of those who survive.
Since the launch of MDGs for sanitation sector, Pakistan’s commitment for sanitation has enabled the country to make good progress in increasing the rate of improved sanitation from 24 percent to 64 percent, the conference was told. The country has also reduced the rate of open defecation from 49 percent to 13 percent in the last 15 years.
Ghulam Qadir, the focal person for SACOSAN from Afghanistan, shared that the indicators, commitments, and resolutions drafted in the Islamabad Declaration would help Afghanistan achieve better sanitation till 2030.
Mayor of the Kingdom of Bhutan Kinlay Dorjee said that the country was committed towards effective implementation of the Islamabad declaration.
Abdul Rauff Hibathul Hakeem, the minister for city planning and water supply in Sri Lanka, noted that the country had achieved the MDGs related to sanitation before time. Abdual Mateem Mohammad, the minister for environment and energy in Maldives, appreciated that discussions were focused on achieving targets with no one being left behind.
Samir Kumar, the joint secretary in the Indian ministry of drinking water and sanitation, shared the progress made by India in Great Bharat Mission (behaviour change model) through which sanitation services had reached 80 percent of the population.
It was also announced that the 8th edition of the conference would be held in New Delhi, India, in 2020.