Travelling up and down India makes you realise one big thing that lack of hygiene and sanitation are the biggest pressing issue for this mighty nation. For the big metro cities, these issues are getting addressed loud and clear. However, it’s the rural areas which are still the worst affected.
The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission) initiated by the Government of India is a perfect start to nail these issues. As the women and girls of this country face an uphill ongoing challenge for privacy, sanitation issues need to be a top most priority.
Furthermore, we will look at the most relevant statistics on the effects lack of sanitation and hygiene has in India.
Firstly, combining an unhygienic environment with a high population density creates a breeding ground for preventable disease. Epidemics such as typhoid and diarrhoea, prevent their victims from absorbing necessary nutrients which lead to malnutrition. India has higher rates of malnutrition in children than Sub-Saharan Africa.
Some degree of malnutrition is faced by approximately 48% of Indian children. The prime reason behind this is water borne infections such as diarrhoea, cholera and typhoid to name few. Around 4,50,000 deaths were linked to diarrhoea alone in 2006 of which 88% were deaths of children below 5 years of age.
Approximately 70% of households in India don’t have access to toilets, whether in rural areas or urban slums. Roughly 60% of the total country’s 1.2 billion people still defecate in the open. From that 65% of the rural population defecate out in the open.
Rural deaths are very sad and it could be due to poverty or preventable diseases. However, it is estimated that 1 in every 10 deaths in Indian villages is caused due to poor sanitation and hygiene.
A disproportionate burden is placed on women and girls due to open defecation in India. It has a cascading effect on the entire livelihood of a woman’s life. For example, women having the need to defecate out in the open, which adds risk to their lives and safety. A recent statistics suggest that more than 60% of rapes or physical abuse that happen in a particular Indian state could be attributed to women going outside to defecate as they do not have a toilet at home.
Girls are often forced to miss school or even drop out of education due to lack of sanitation facilities in their school. Thus impacting the literacy rates in a country where the gap between urban and rural education is so huge.
The root problem to this is the lack of available or accessible toilets for the ever growing population of India. Building clean toilets with access to continuous water supply are going to be a strong challenge as this country faces water scarcity on a large scale at times.
India has the potential to design and execute a wide scale construction of public toilets. As they have an innovative and inherent capacity to seek solutions for all kind of problems.
These statistics have the ability to baffle anybody! Do you want to make a difference in eradicating hygiene and sanitation needs? The real impact will be felt when we can make India open defecation free!
Sources: Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Times of India – India Times, Borgen Project, Live Mint and Wall Street Journal and Health Issues India.
Cover Image Courtesy: India Water Portal