Sanitation in Pakistan
Pakistan had a population of 210 million people as of 2017 and is the world’s fifth-most populous country. Further, it is surprising that Pakistan’s GDP has grown 3.3 percent in a single year considering that 24 percent of its population lives below the national poverty line. Poverty has contributed to citizens’ ongoing struggle with inadequate sanitation. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Pakistan.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Pakistan

  1. Pakistan is among the top 10 countries in the world that lack access to clean water. The nonprofit organization WaterAid conducted a study revealing that 21 million people out of the country’s total population lack access to clean water. Out of Pakistan’s total population, 79.2 percent of the rural poor have access to clean water. On the other hand, 98 percent of Pakistan’s rich have access to clean water. 
  2. Seventy-nine million people in Pakistan do not have access to a proper toilet. According to WaterAid.org, every two out of five people, or the majority of people living in poor rural areas, do not have access to a toilet. The lack of adequate facilities can create additional problems for citizens, such as bacterial infection or diarrhea. In fact, 16,800 children under the age of 5 die from diarrhea each year. WaterAid is currently working to combat the sanitation issue in Pakistan by working with government and local officials to provide proper toilet facilities throughout disadvantaged communities.
  3. Pakistan’s women and young girls often stay at home rather than partaking in normal activities, due to a lack of menstruation supplies and proper facilities. According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), 75 percent of women stay at home during menstruation. Due to a lack of resources and cleaning facilities, many girls have no choice but to use unsanitary methods for managing menstruation, such as homemade sanitary pads. Further, these methods are prone to cause vaginal infections as a result of reuse. 
  4. Improper sanitation and food storage are some of the major sanitation issues in Pakistan. The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) reveals the prevalence of illness from improper food care. Contamination of food due to washing it in unsanitary water sources can cause bacteria like E. Coli, salmonella and other pathogens to enter the human body, causing severe illness.
  5. Waterborne diseases are prevalent as a result of untreated drinking water. According to the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR), 62 percent of the urban population and 84 percent of the rural population of Pakistan do not treat their drinking water to prevent waterborne diseases. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) estimates that 40 percent of all diseases in Pakistan are due to unsanitary drinking water.
  6. Stunted growth due to unsanitary conditions affects 38 percent of children in Pakistan. The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) found that unsanitary conditions like drinking and bathing in unsanitary water stunt growth. In the state of Sindh, stunted growth affects 50 percent of children, which can also cause cognitive development stunting. The consequences of stunting are irreversible, causing lifelong implications for the child into adulthood. Working with these communities, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has begun a stunting reduction program to work with families to provide children with clean water and facilities to fight against poor sanitation in Pakistan.
  7. The misuse of pesticides in Pakistan’s agricultural fields results in an annual death rate of 10,000 people per year from agrochemical poisoning. Around 500,000 people fall ill annually as a result, although most are fortunate to recover. When people do not properly use pesticides, they can persist through rain and flooding, eventually entering water sources. People drink these water sources, in turn causing illness. Training is crucial for agricultural workers to properly prevent water contamination.
  8. The population growth rate has been climbing since the late 1900s. According to the United Nations, the total population of the country will reach 220 million people by mid-2020. A researcher with the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) stresses that millions of people still live without access to clean drinking water, which includes large metropolitan cities where drinking water is scarce. The Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) recommendation for government intervention to bring clean water to overpopulated areas should help improve sanitation in Pakistan.
  9. The lack of proper toilet facilities is a part of 41 million people’s lives in Pakistan. According to The United Nations International Emergency Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the lack of toilets leaves people with no choice but to practice open defecation, which can lead to the spread of diseases among communities. Pakistan is the third-largest country where people practice open defecation. UNICEF is working with the government to help build toilet facilities for communities that need them to ultimately improve sanitation in Pakistan. These facilities are especially important for girls to protect them against assault, which happens often during open defecation.
  10. Only two cities in Pakistan — Islamabad and Karachi — have biological waste facilities. These facilities clean only about 8 percent of wastewater due to limited functioning, even with the already limited number of facilities to filter wastewater. Industrial waste also pollutes water in Pakistan. Out of 6,000 of the country’s registered businesses, 1,228 have “highly polluted” water sources. Government officials are working towards improving water treatment centers. Pakistan established the National Water Policy (NWP) to ensure that the country applies 10 percent of national funding to the development and repair of water infrastructure.

Pakistan’s impoverished citizens experience sanitation issues the most. The solutions are fairly simple but Pakistan’s acceptance of outside support will be a substantial step. If one considers the progress that Pakistan is already making to change the lives of people facing sanitation challenges in Pakistan, it is clear that the country should be able to implement real change and help communities thrive for years to come.

– Amelia Sharma
Photo: Flickr