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For an open-defecation-free India


Water, sanitation, and hygiene are basic needs and rights of people. Unfortunately, seven decades since Independence, India still struggles to ensure equal accessibility to safe drinking water and sanitation to more than half of its population. One of the paramount challenges in achieving ‘Clean India’ target is the country’s reprehensible state of open defecation. According to UNICEF, India has the largest population practising open defecation. Only 48.4% of Indian households have access to sanitation facilities (National Family Health Survey IV).

The lack of proper sanitation facilities has taken its toll on our country. One in ten deaths in India is due to poor sanitation, according to the World Bank as cited in ‘The Economist’ in September 2017. The World Health Organisation estimates that 117,000 Indian children under the age of five died in 2015 from diarrhoeal diseases caused by unimproved sanitation and hygiene. Moreover, women and girls face shame, loss of dignity and safety risk with no toilets at their homes, communities and schools. Dasra’s report “Spot On” indicates that 66% of the girls in India manage their period outside or in an open field due to the absence of a household toilet, while 23% of girls drop out of school for the same reason. Thus, open defecation is a huge challenge in terms of social and cultural sensibilities, behaviours, capacities, resources and governance in India.

According to the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, approximately 5,90,93,000 toilets have been built so far under the Swachh Bharat Mission. More than 3,07,349 villages have been declared Open Defecation Free (ODF). Though the present figures are commendable, there have been apprehensions on how many people actually use their new toilets. Mere construction of toilets is not enough to ensure its usage. Behaviour change at individual, household and community levels is an essential factor to achieve absolute open defecation free status. Communities have to be mobilised for not just using toilets but maintaining and cleaning them as well.

Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) initiatives of World Vision India focus on Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach to generate demand, change behaviour, build self-actions and integrate with Clean India. A recent study conducted among 384 households spread over 30 ODF villages covered under World Vision India’s Area Development Programme (ADP) in Narsinghpur, Madhya Pradesh, evaluates the behaviour change generated through community-based processes.

As per the study, about 93% households stated that all the members in their family use the toilet every time they went for defecation. Around 99% households clean their toilets at different intervals. Cleaning of the toilet is an indication of toilet use. The study also shows that 91% toilets are available and used at household level, while 9% households use community toilets which can be reached within 30 minutes from their houses. About 51% toilets, were reported to have water connectivity. As many as 93% toilets have facility for hand washing after defecation and 98% households indicated availability of soap for washing.

Encouragingly, all households covered under the study are aware of the advantages of using toilet, like safety of women, dignity, respect, time efficiency and cleanliness. About 99% households feel that there is no harm in using the toilet. Less than 1% felt that use of toilet may pollute the water sources. The responses indicate that behaviour change in terms of toilet use is well appreciable at the community level.

While leveraging resources and opportunities created under Clean India Mission, World Vision India is significantly contributing by engaging the communities, building local capacities, changing behaviours and encouraging the rural communities to become open defecation free.

The study also identified various constraints that prevent people from using toilets. Around 13% households reported lack of water, 12% bad odour and 12% congested space as difficulties in using their toilets. About 53% households reported other constraints related to social customs, more users at a time and lack of assistance required for using the toilet. All the limitations of the current system should be addressed for our communities to enjoy the real benefits of becoming open defecation free. Sustaining the achieved ODF status also becomes challenging in the long run. It is then the resources and skills of organisations like World Vision India, that engage and capacitate the community and build linkages with the government service provisions, become helpful.

In a Partners Meet

Ms. Yogita Limaye meets her sponsored child Vasika at the Mumbai Partners Meet in Feb '16.

The Match

Children participate in a football match organized by the Football Club, Goa

I can hear!

Hearing Aids help Bhavyasri hear now. Her parents were elated to see their daughter respond when they called.


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