53% Indians Defecate in Open
Sanitation, Hygiene Situation Grim
A rcent report indicates that 53% of Indians, or 600 millions of them, defecate in the open. The report is charitable. Not long ago Union Minister Jairam Ramesh had put the figure at 64%, a global record. The malady costs the nation Rs. 3,24,000 crore every year in premature death and treatment of the sick, wasted time and productivity and lost tourism revenues.
We had our spaceship “Chandrayaan” around the moon. Now, “Mangalayaan” is headed for Mars. Fine! No words are sufficient to applaud the achievements in the space exploration. But should we not be held guilty of ignoring priorities and the grotesque ground realities. Just sample these facts:
64% of Indians defecate in the open. In contrast, in Bangladesh and Brazil, only 7% of the population defecate in the open. In China only 4% of the population defecate in the open.
60% of all open defecations in the world are in India.
6.4% of the GDP lost in health costs, productivity losses and reduced tourism revenue.
0.02% of India’s GDP accounts for the budgetary allocation for sanitation.
8.71 crore toilets claimed to have been delivered by Total Sanitation Campaign in the last 10 years.
5.16 crore toilets are all that was found to be in existence by the household census.
45,000 crore rupees spent on rural sanitation during the last five years.
1,08 lakh crore rupees to be spent in the next five years till 2017.
• According to the Public Health Association, only 53% of the population wash hands with soap after defecation, 38% wash hands with soap before eating and only 30% wash hands with soap before preparing food.
• Only 11% of the Indian rural families dispose child stools safely. 80% children’s stools are left in the open or thrown into the garbage.
• Only 6% of rural children less than five years of age use toilets.
• WASH Interventions significantly reduce diarrhoeal morbidity; statistically it has been shown that:
• Handwashing with soap reduces it by 44%.
• Household water treatment by 39%.
• Sanitation by 36%
• Water supply by 23%.
• Source water treatment by 11%.
Major Gaps : 3.5 crore Missing Loos
Most Indian’s still do not have access to modern sanitation: for example, rural sanitation coverage was estimated to have reached only 21% by 2008 according to the UNICEF/WHO joint monitoring programme.
Inadequate sanitation cost us in terms of national health. The Government of India (GOI) has been alive to this issue and made major investments in rural sanitation since the mid-1980s (under the national flagship program Total Sanitation Campaign or TSC); and the National Urban Sanitation Policy (NUSP, 2008). But it appears there has been a lot of gaps between what a government claims and what it has really achieved. For instance, the TSC launched in 1999, claimed that it had provided access to toilets to over 80% of the population by the end of 2009. But while the Ministry claims to have constructed 8.7 crore toilets, the Household Census of 2011 revealed that only 5.16 crore household actually had toilets even now. Question is where have the 3.5 crore toilets gone missing.
This study underlines that not only are substantial investments needed but that these can become effective only when they result in reducing morbidity and mortality, mitigating impacts on drinking water, improving welfare, and reducing impacts on tourism, and so on, which are associated with inadequate sanitation.
Source of several Maladies
The report suggests that open defecation is an important threat to the human capital of developing countries and that a programme accessible to countries where sanitation development capacity is lower could improve average cognitive skills. Improved access to improved sanitation can increase cognition among children. Research showed that six-year-olds who had been exposed to India’s sanitation programme during their first year of life were more likely to recognise letters and simple numbers on learning tests than those who were not,” says Dean Spears, lead author of the paper ‘Effects of Early – Life Exposure to Sanitation on Childhood Cognitive Skills.’
Issues in Communal loos
There are issues involved in loos at schools and public places. While men can and do empty their bladders just against the protection of a wall, same is not possible for women who need a four-side covered space. Paucity of such loos in bazaars, shopping areas, stations and other public places is a sure hindrance in their going out for periods beyond the endurance level of their bladder.
Shabby or non-existent toilets in schools are a major contributing factors to dropout of girl children from high schools. Grown-up girls want a totally private space as they often have to change and dispose off their sanitary pads besides cleaning up hands.
Then there are issues with communal latrines in villages where members of socalled upper castes do not want to share loos with those from the Dalit communities.
Plight of slum women is much more pathetic. They have to restrain themselves all through the daylight hours from answering their call of nature as there are no secure spaces around. And doing it in open in pre-dawn or late-evening hours is fraught with all kinds of risk. Such women or girls in school avoid drinking even necessary amount of water needed for a healthy body, lest they have to use the toilet frequently.
It is time a general consciousness is aroused about this basic necessity and providing toilets in all possible places becomes a public cause and a national mission in order that a genuine physical function does not degenerate into a humiliating experience.
(Source: Report prepared on the basis of http://www.unicef.org/india, &http://www.interaksyon.com)