Jan 24, 2007

Chittagong Hill Tracts: Clean Water Coming

The three districts of Chittagong Hill Tracts will be among the first to benefit from an international project aimed at improving water supply and sanitation systems in Bangladesh.

Below is an excerpt from an article published by UNICEF:

The UK Department for International Development (DFID) and UNICEF signed an agreement worth US$ 62.8 million to support the Government of Bangladesh to implement improved water supply and sanitation programmes reaching 30 million people across the country from 2007-2011.   

Acting Country Representative of DFID in Bangladesh Elizabeth Carriere and UNICEF Bangladesh Representative Louis-Georges Arsenault signed the agreement in Dhaka this morning. 

This agreement supports joint implementation of the Sanitation, Hygiene Education and Water Supply in Bangladesh (SHEWA-B) project by the Government of Bangladesh (GoB)’s Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) and UNICEF.  For the five year duration of the project, the DFID contribution will be US$ 62.8 million, UNICEF’s own contribution will be approximately $9.3 million, while the GoB investment will be around $16.9 million.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, the Acting Country Representative of DFID in Bangladesh Elizabeth Carriere said: “Nearly 100 children in Bangladesh die each day from diarrhoea-related disease caused by poor hygiene and sanitation. DFID is helping 30 million people in the area covered by this programme to get improved sanitation and safe drinking water supplies, and special measures will ensure that school children and the poorest will benefit.  We are achieving this by working in partnership with experienced organisations such as UNICEF, to provide coordinated support to the Government of Bangladesh’s own programmes.” 

UNICEF Bangladesh Representative Louis-George Arsenault said: “I greatly appreciate DFID for making this generous contribution. I am confident that SHEWA-B will chart a way towards achieving the Millennium Development Target 10 of halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015 through this expansive DPHE/UNICEF partnership.” Stating that not meeting the target means people’s health and well being are hindered in many ways, Arsenault, noted that the lack of clean water, proper hygiene and sanitation contributes to high child and maternal mortality.

Through SHEWA-B around 5.1 million of the poorest people will benefit from access to safe water delivery. Also, 1.5 million schoolchildren will benefit from safe water delivery and improved sanitation services to 7,500 primary schools; whilst 4.5 million children are to gain from hygiene education in their schools.


In its first phase from 2007 to 2009 SHEWA-B will cover 60 upazilas in 16 plain-land districts as well as 300 paras (neighbourhoods) in the three districts of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).  The second phase will be implemented from 2009 to 2011 and add another 44 upazilas in 12 more districts and 300 paras in the CHT. The programme will also cover slum areas in the main pourashabhas or municipal areas in the programme districts.

Although Bangladesh has made significant strides in lowering infant and child mortality in recent times, no less than a hundred children still die each day from diarrhoea, caused by poor hygiene and sanitation. These  factors  also cast negative impacts on children’s, especially girl students’, school attendance and academic performance, and the dignity of women by exposing them to open and unsafe sanitary options.

Through SHEWA-B, the UNICEF/DPHE partnership has the largest reach of any programme in the water and sanitation sector of Bangladesh. SHEWA-B is expected to generate a significant positive influence on GoB’s plans for water supply and sanitation, which have been prioritised in its Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP-2005).

Between 1990 and 2002, Bangladesh increased sanitation coverage from 23 per cent to 48 per cent.  However, 72 million (out of a total population of about 140 million) still do not have access to improved sanitation. SHEWA-B is expected to reach 30 million or 42 per cent of people still living without adequate sanitation, increasing total coverage to almost 70 per cent.

It will ensure water supply for just over five million or 15 per cent of those without safe drinking water, reduce arsenic risk for half of these (2.5 million), and increase total coverage to 79 per cent. Meanwhile, the school component of SHEWA-B will provide both separate and appropriate toilets for boys and girls, and will incorporate hygiene education to help address the challenges Bangladesh faces in school retention rates, particularly for girls.