At a function organized by WaterAid Nepal and FEDWASUN, leaders of major political parties agreed to make water and sanitation their agenda for the forthcoming elections

Aug. 8, 2013, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol: 07 No. -5 Aug. 9- 2013 (Shrawan 25, 2070)

Annually, over 10,000 children die of diseases, including diarrhea. The cause often goes back to water and sanitation. Similarly, thousands of others get admitted at hospitals to treat water-borne diseases. According to the Department of Health Services data, 11 percent children get diarrhea within two weeks. Six percent of population receive their treatment in the health posts, after infection of the water born and sanitation related problems.

Due to lack of toilets, many young girls remain absent from classroom during their monthly periods. Despite success in the area of drinking water supply, the coverage of sanitation is yet to improve. Although the government of Nepal has expressed its commitments to universal coverage of sanitation and water by 2017, it is yet to start making serious investment in this sector. To meet the MDGs, Nepal needs to provide sanitation facilities to 53 percent of the population by 2015. For this the government needs to allocate 20 percent of its total budget in this sector. 

The basic Guidelines of Sanitation Master Plan 2068 stress the need to declare areas free of Open Defection. These also include hundred percent perfection in water and sanitation facilities and changing the behavior of people on hand washing by soaps.

Nepal's current situation is worse than what the master plan says. The coverage of sanitation is lower; the drinking water supply by the government is yet to be safer. An overwhelming number of people don't wash hands.

According to the study of Wateraid Nepal, 97 percent of richest had toilets in 2008, whereas 60 percent had them in 1995.  However, the poorest people's coverage is yet to improve. Compared to 1995, the situation has improved a little. Poorest quintile of population had no toilet in 1995 and now 4 percent of such population has access. Similarly, the first quintile has zero and now 11 percent. Second quintile has zero in 1995 and now 29 and third quintile of population has 9 percent in 1995 and 57 percent now.

While the government has set 2017 as the deadline for meeting the universal target for access to basic sanitation by all the citizens of Nepal, the present achievement rate has been sluggish. Nepal government has to declare all 75 districts as ODF areas in four years. But, only 915 VDCs, among the total 3,915, have become ODF till now, which is only 24 percent of the total VDCs.

Although water and sanitation issues, including promotion and public launch of Open Defecation Free (ODF) toolkit, is always sidelined in political agenda, WaterAid Nepal together with Federation of Drinking Water and Sanitation Users Nepal (FEDWASUN), carried out an interactive session with political leaders on 29 July 2013.

In the presence of huge public, leaders of various political parties agreed to raise the water and sanitation as a major issue in the coming CA elections. "The purpose of this program was to sensitize political leaders on the importance of their role in promoting sanitation in Nepal.

Facilitated by former minister and leader of Nepal Communist Party United Ganesh Shah, and Kasturi Pradhananga of Sashakti Nepal Party, the party leaders Jitendra Singh of Tarai Madhesh Loktantrik Party and Bishnu Raj Aryal, leader of Nepal Communist Party, Marxist-Leninist, were among others to express the political commitment. Rajendra Aryal, president of FEDWASUN, opened the program.

"We will put the sanitation and drinking water as a major agenda in our party manifesto," thundered Nabindra Raj Joshi, former CA member and Nepali Congress leader.   

Civil society leaders expressed dissatisfaction with the political parties for ignoring this important agenda.

“When people die due to conflicts or disasters, this is taken as a serious issue, but around 10,000 children are dying due to lack of sanitation and this has not been taken seriously. It is the right time for all political leaders to bring sanitation to the agenda. Hopefully the commitments made today will be fulfilled,” complained Rajendra Aryal, national president, FEDWASUN.

During the program an ODF Toolkit was also launched.  “The launch of this ODF toolkit is definitely a big step forward in sanitation. However, the broader picture is still bleak; the national target states that Nepal will achieve universal sanitation coverage by 2017, however this is not possible until all 75 districts of Nepal are declared ODF. Till date only 9 districts (Kaski, Chitwan, Tanahu, Myagdi, Pyuthan, Parbat, Accham, Kalikot, and Makwanpur) out of 75 districts have been declared as ODF,” said Ashutosh Tiwari, Country Representative, and WaterAid Nepal.

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