UNDP, UNICEF undertake first ever joint project

The first project ever undertaken jointly by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Pakistan will focus on arsenic removal from drinking water supplies to nearly 600 schools in two major provinces, according to a UNDP official.

The US $428,000 project - "Water, Environment and Sanitation in Sindh and Punjab" - was formally signed on Tuesday by Onder Yucer, who heads the UNDP in Pakistan, and Omar Abdi, the UNICEF country representative.

"This project will be conducted by UNDP small grants programme (SGP) and UNICEF, which is already targeting 20 districts. And, out of these, they are working in 600 schools. These schools were facing water supply and sanitation issues in those schools and villages," Nadeem Bukhari, an SGP programme monitoring officer at UNDP, told IRIN in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

"Basically this project is going to focus only on arsenic removal and around 240 treatment plants for arsenic removal will be installed in schools," he added.

The overall goal of the joint programme is to demonstrate the provision of sustainable safe water supply and sanitation models to help contribute to the reduction of mortality and morbidity among women and children in accordance with the Millennium Development Goals, an UNDP press release said.

Activities in the programme agreement cover providing safe water sources and improved sanitation facilities to schools, installing chlorination plants for water systems relying on surface water sources, and Arsenic Removal Strategies (ARTs) at schools and headquarters, the press statement added.

A selected number of teachers, water system operators and social mobilizers will be trained in hygiene knowledge, and in the operation and maintenance of water supply systems and treatment plants, the press release continued.

The project's "current phase" would last till December, Bukhari explained.

Earlier, at the signing ceremony, Yucer said the UN planned to have "integrated" programmes in at least 15 districts in the country "so that a district-wide impact" could be measured.