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Monday, 11 February 2019

End open air defecation in India

End open air defecation in India According to UNICEF: “Open defecation refers to the practice whereby people go out in fields, bushes, forests, open bodies of water, or other open spaces rather than using the toilet to defecate”. Open defecation represents a serious threat to the health of people (especially children) in India, where the estimated percentage of population practicing open defecation is around 40% (WHO/ UNICEF 2017 data). Open defecation was found by the WHO in 2014 to be a leading cause of diarrheal death. It is also an important factor that causes various diseases such as diarrhea, intestinal worm infections, hepatitis, cholera, typhoid and others. It can lead to environment and water pollution when rain flushes feces that are dispersed in the environment into surface water or unprotected wells. There are strong gender impacts connected with this practice: the lack of safe, private toilets makes women and girls vulnerable to violence and is an impediment to girls' education. Women are at risk of sexual molestation and rape as they search for places for open defecation that are secluded and private, often during hours of darkness.

The international commitment to end open air defecation worldwide is underlined in the SDG 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development set by the United Nations. Goal 6 states: “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” and its target 6.2 asserts: “By 2030 achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations”. The data highlight how far we have come since 2000. Open defecation rates have fallen and billions have gained access to basic water and sanitation services. Despite these successes, progress has been uneven in both areas, with wide disparities among and within countries. Although the data show a great improvement, around 892 million people worldwide continue to lack even the most rudimentary sanitation and still practice open air defecation.

In October 2014, the Prime Minister of India launched an ambitious national sanitation program that aims to eliminate open defecation by 2019. The Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) has unprecedented political support and has mobilized nearly $25 billion from Government, the private sector and civil society. The program targets behaviour change and community approaches to sanitation are being adopted throughout the country. The SBM has developed a national database with detailed information on latrine coverage down to the household level and a multi-stage verification process. As of June 2017, according to the SBM, over 205,000 villages, 149 districts and five States had reported themselves to be open defecation free.

The Government estimated that since the start of the Mission, in October 2014, coverage of latrines in rural India has increased from 42% to 65%, and the number of rural Indians defecating in the open had come down from 550 to 330 million people by June 2017. The SBM program recognizes the need to go beyond reporting infrastructure coverage, and is conducting population-based surveys to determine household use of sanitation facilities, which is the internationally agreed-upon indicator used by JMP (WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene) to compare progress across countries. Within the governmental program a joint initiative organized by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation and UNICEF aims to increase the capacity of local and national actors working in WASH in schools. The world has made steady progress: the proportion of the global population practising open defecation decreased from 20% to 12% between 2000 and 2015. But much remains to be done, especially in rural areas, where open defecation has been declining at a rate of just 0.7 percentage points per year. This rate would need to more than double in order to eliminate open defecation in rural areas by 2030.

HEEALS (Health, Education, Environment And Livelihood Society) is one of those organizations directly involved in facing and solving open air defecation problem. It is working on Water Sanitation, Menstrual Hygiene and Toilet Building projects in seven states: Delhi (National Capital Region), Haryana, Rajasthan, Himachal, Uttranchal, Leh and Uttar Pradesh. HEEALS works in slum schools, schools in unauthorised colonies, orphanages and refugee camps. Through spreading education on Sanitation, Menstrual Hygiene and building clean safe, toilets HEEALS is working to increase the attendance rates of pupils in schools, reduce the number of diseases and deaths and improve the health of people across Indian society.

Manuel Mezzadra WASH intern

References: Diarrhoeal diseases, WHO, 10th march 2014 Fear and anger: Perceptions of risks related to sexual violence against women linked to water and sanitation in Delhi, India - Briefing Note. SHARE (Sanitation and Hygiene Applied Research for Equity) and WaterAid, UK, Lennon, S. (2011). Progress on Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, 2017 updates and SDG baselines. WHO/ UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation Violence, Gender & WASH: A Practitioner’s Toolkit – Making water, sanitation and hygiene safer through improved programming and services, House, Sarah, Suzanne Ferron, Marni Sommer and Sue Cavill (2014). Webography: http://heeals.org https://heeals.blogspot.com http://unicef.in/whatwedo/11/eliminate-open-defecation https://washdata.org/reports https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_defecation#Impacts -

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