LGRD and Cooperatives Minister Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan said Tuesday that the nationwide sanitation campaign was an integral part of the country's overall efforts to fight poverty, reports BSS.
"Weak sanitation system leads to ill health, growing treatment costs and unemployment eventually lingering the poverty chain," he said while speaking as the chief guest at a workshop on "Achieving 100 per cent sanitation by 2010: Media perspective".
The children, he said, are the worst victims of poor sanitation system with their high exposure to waterborne diseases, like diarrhoea, typhoid and jaundice, that are mainly caused by unhygienic and open latrines.
He cited the example of an area in Satkhira, where the people had to spend 20 per cent of their total income for frequent treatments up to 2003.
Local Government, Rural Development (LGRD) and Cooperatives Ministry and Forum of Environmental Journalists of Bangladesh (FEJB) jointly organised the workshop in cooperation with WaterAid Bangladesh at the National Press Club in the city.
Mannan Bhuiyan said neither the policymakers nor the media should forget that the hygienic life has a direct impact on economy, sound health, environment, solvency, poverty alleviation and protection of child rights.
The minister urged the mainstream media to give an extra focus on success stories of the sanitation campaign changing community behaviour and health so the people in other areas can follow that.
"Media has the most important role in creating public awareness and turning it into a social movement," he said.
Mannan Bhuiyan said around 70 per cent families in Dhaka city have already been brought under sanitation coverage, but the problem lies with the floating people who live in open places and footpaths. The government has set a target to set up 100 public toilets in the city and many more mobile toilets to keep the city clean.
Speaking at the function, Editor of the News Today Reazuddin Ahmed said sanitation should be part of the world's poverty alleviation campaign. He said the policymakers should not be complacent about the faster progress because only one- per cent leakage in the campaign could jeopardise the whole project.
He said Bangladesh has already set a role model in expanding sanitary coverage quickly in South Asia and the model programme has now been replicated in neighbouring India, the largest democracy in the world and an emerging economy in Asia after China.
Chief Editor and Managing Director of Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS) Gaziul Hasan Khan said sanitation is the only area where Bangladesh made tremendous growth just in less than two years. He asked for giving more attention to setting up more public and mobile toilets in the city as well as smooth drainage and sewerage in cities.
General Secretary of the National Press Club Shawkat Mahmood said the media could play a very important role to make any programme an issue provided they have the access to information.
Senior journalist Badiul Alam said the nationwide campaign on sanitation seemed to be a commitment at the top level and the lower level is just following the order of the superiors. He said the commitment at the top level alone could not make the programme a success unless the commitment comes from all spheres.
FEJB Chairman Quamrul Islam Chowdhury, who moderated the discussion, said the journalists played a very significant role to protect environment in the country and they have still been continuing their efforts to make a positive social change. He also called for providing technical supports for journalists to attain the objective by 2010.