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Universal sanitation gains momentum
" Ms. Sunila Basant, Secretary Department of Drinking Water Supply, delivering key note address during the opening session. "

“The key to reforming the water and sanitation sector lies with the local authorities and we are counting on UNICEF’s continuous support to do so” .This was voiced by both Ms. Sunila Basant, Secretary of Department of Drinking Water, Ministry of Rural Development and Mr. Cecilio Adorna, UNICEF Representative to India, during the opening session of the annual review of UNICEF and Government of India’s (GoI’s) Child’s Environment Programme (CEP). Over 90 delegates from 14 states participated in the review and shared their experiences. The Child’s Environment Programme is jointly implemented with the GoI and State Governments in 157 districts in 14 states to ensure children benefit from improved hygiene and sanitation conditions at home, in schools and in their communities.
Over 600 local authorities have been proposed for the Presidential National “Clean Village Award” on 23 March.

Ms. Basant is pleased with the momentum that is being created to achieve universal sanitation. “We still have a long a way to go but good progress has  been made with over 600 local authorities proposed for the Presidential National “Clean Village Award” on March 23rd. This is considerable progress from the 39 awards presented in 2005.” Ms. Basant called for all participants’ support to ensure that this number increases to 2000 by the end of 2006.

Using the government’s on-line Report Card System for the Total Sanitation Campaign and school sanitation programmes, supported by UNICEF last year, Mr. Kumar Alok, Director of the Total Sanitation Campaign, revealed that most of the 14 states are showing increased rates in sanitation coverage. There has been a 40% increase in the total national achievement since 2001. In the last year over ten million households and 54.000 schools have been provided with latrines. However, if efforts are not drastically accelerated, some states will only reach full coverage of sanitation by 2600…., a difficult idea to accept with the dramatic economic development happening in India today. The market place at the review allowed all states to showcase their progress to the participants.
“Children and adults can recover from fluorosis if detected early "

Ms S. Jalaja, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Health, indicated that the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) provides a “golden opportunity to converge and integrate water, sanitation and health”. This convergence is critical if we want to ensure that all children in India will be provided with safe drinking water. Of the 18 states where NRHM is operational, 10 have serious fluoride and arsenic problems. The lives of 66 million people, including 6 million children, are severely affected by Fluorosis in India, a disease resulting in bone deformation, stunted growth and mental retardation. Studies and experience show that these conditions could have been averted had the mothers and caretakers known about the source of fluoride from water and food and alternatives provided. “Children and adults can recover from fluorosis if detected early  and if adequate dietary supplementation is provided with safe drinking water” said Dr. Tapas from the Regional Medical Research Center for Tribals (ICMR) in Jabalpur. This integrated approach resulted in a reduction of 45% of skeletal fluorosis and is now being implemented with UNICEF support in other districts of the state.

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