32 years Rehmat Auntie, who wore a black scarf in the picture above, woke up in the middle of the night. He shook his little sister who lay beside him to wake him up. The two women wandered out of the house in thick darkness with gas lamps. After walking a few meters, they found a large bush, which the two women took turns to take to defecate.
Rehmat Aunt and her sister are two of the millions of other women forced to defecate in the open because of the scarcity of toilets in rural Pakistan.
According to a study conducted by the children’s charity Unicef, 22.2 million Pakistanis lack toilet and proper sanitation in a country of 200 million people. Water carried away and related to sanitation disease like typhoid, polio, diarrhea, jaundice, and cholera are some of the leading causes of death in Pakistan; 94,000 people in the country died due to consumption of contaminated water, and 53,000 Pakistani children under the age of five die a year diarrhea because of water and poor sanitation.
Rehmat Bibi’s house is located on a mountaintop with a natural border between Sindh province and Balochistan. The village, named Mitho Goth (which means sweet village in Urdu), consists of about 100 other households, all of whom lack basic sanitation. The village, which is so remote that it cannot be found on a map, has only one small room adjacent to a mosque built by local residents. It is always used by village men, women must endure and wait until night to defecate in the open.
In 2007, when Typhoon Yemyin wreaking havoc and flooding the village, killed 24 people, a team from Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and government officials came to help with the relief effort. A toilet was built in that area, but it turned out that way guarding the boundaries for locals. Only guest officials are allowed to use it.
During the rescue operationTwo women died of stomach problems due to poor sanitation and hygiene. One NGO, Caritas Pakistan, which is run by the Catholic Church, pay attention to the magnitude of this problem and build a new publsmall rooms ic for villagers the following year.
Mansha Noor, Caritas Pakistan’s executive secretary, said that the aim of building toilets for villagers was not only to provide better hygiene, but also to provide vulnerable women to roam in a safe, dark place to escape male attention.
Noor said that village women had previously been unaware of the notion that open defecation could be a health risk, and wanted to use a new toilet and adopt better hygiene and sanitation standards. They are trained in how to use the toilet and are taught basic hygiene, such as washing hands before and after using the toilet.
More than half (59.6 percent) of Pakistan’s population has access to basic hand washing facilities, and the proportion is lower (46.1 percent) in the countryside; alarming statistics, especially during the coronavirus. On April 17, Pakistan had been only under 4,000 cases were recorded virus, and 54 deaths.
Before coronavirus first appeared in Pakistan, Naseem Salahuddin, an infectious disease specialist at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi, said that if coronavirus entered the country it will “spread like wildfire.” There will be more deaths because “our general population is quite unhealthy,” he said.
Water Aid, another NGO operating in Pakistan, has carried out extensive research on sanitation in Pakistan and linked poverty to the lack of sanitary toilets.
Head of program for Water Assistance, Asim Saleem, said that most villages in Pakistan have one toilet at most, which is intended for visitors and special guests.
Saleem said that most people in rural Pakistan are accustomed to defecating in open fields, and have no qualms about doing it. Indeed, many do not want to change their ways. P.Roper sewerage systems depend on underground water sources, and it is a common belief that building a sanitation system will disrupt water levels and pollute it, Saleem said.
Water Aid seeks to change that belief, and raise awareness through door-to-door campaigns to teach proper sanitation and hygiene using information videos and public talks about how the proper sewerage system works and why hygiene and sanitation are important to contribute to a healthier society.
Speaking to Eco-Business about Pakistani toilet habits, a spokesman for the Sindh health ministry said that the sanitation policy set for 2017 was aimed to end open practice din the province by 2025.
However, he acknowledged that persuading people to change old habits is a big task, because many do not believe that their behavior needs to be changed.
In many villages where new toilets have been installed they are used as storage and kitchen rooms rather than the purpose for which they were built, said a spokesman, who chose to remain anonymous.
However, one lesson for the spread of coronavirus, can be a faster change in attitude toward cleanliness, because the need to wash hands and sanitation becomes important, said Saleem Water Assistance. However, he points out that attitudes change faster in urban areas than in rural areas, but even in cities access to soap and hand washing facilities is still limited.
“Although attitudes change [in light of Covid-19], they did not change to the level needed. People still haven’t given enough priority to wash, “he said.
Meanwhile in Mitho Goth, Rehmat Bibi asserted that the introduction of toilets had a major impact on his life and the lives of others, and this change needed to be implemented to create a healthier, safer, and cleaner environment.
“[The introduction of toilets was] a sign for us all, assuring us that we are cared for and not forgotten here, far from the mainstream society, “he said.
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