ISLAMABAD: Unicef warned Pakistan that the lack of toilets in the country lead to stunted growth as over 40 million people in Pakistan do not have access to toilets, forcing them to defecate in the open.
During her recent visit to Pakistan, Unicef Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta told the Associated Press, “There are 41 million people who do not have access to a toilet in Pakistan and as a result they are defecating in the open. And open defecation has significant health and nutritional consequences.”
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Explaining the problem, she said that defecating in open can spread disease and lead to intestinal infections, which ultimately contribute to stunting in young children.
"Open defecation is a major contributor to stunting and that's why we've got to do all we can to stop it," Gupta said.
After India and Indonesia, Pakistan is the third-largest country where people defecate in open due to lack of toilets.
Read: Lack of sanitation kills 40,000 children in Pakistan annually
Stunting means children don't grow as tall as they would otherwise, and it also has an impact on a child's brain development. Children with stunted growth are more vulnerable to diseases. In some case, stunted mothers give birth to stunted children.
Pakistan is working in coordination with Unicef to improve the sanitary situation in the country. The two are also working with communities to aid them in building toilets.
Read: Toilet facilities — a luxury for most Pakistanis
Gupta claimed that building more toilets would not only help in empowering women but it would also contribute to rising female enrollment in school.
The Unicef official added that if women have to walk long distances to find a private place to relieve themselves, they are more vulnerable and exposed to attack, adding that they are also unlikely to go to school if there are no toilets.
"Having toilets is a big advantage to girls," she said.