by Floro Mercene
Today, for billions of people around the world, sanitation systems are either non-existent or ineffective. Human waste gets out and killer diseases spread, meaning progress in health and child survival is seriously undermined. In 2013, the United Nations General Assembly officially designated a “World Toilet Day”, and sets its goal to end open defecation by 2030.
Now, open defecation is on the decline world-wide, but nearly 950 million people still routinely practice it in open fields, water sources, forests or other open spaces. Flies breeding and feeding on feces are one the main vehicles delivering infectious organisms back to humans; one gram of feces can contain 10 million viruses, one million bacteria, and over 1,000 parasitic cysts. Diarrhea kills young children and millions more struggle on with chronically infected intestines. 39 percent of Indian children under age five were stunted according to a 2016 report. Poor public sanitation and related health concerns have remained a major problem in India since the country’s independence 70 years ago.
In 2014, India’s Prime Minister Modi launched the “Clean India Campaign” which aims to make India clean and open-defecation-free (ODF) by 2019. Some 569 million in India has no access to or do not use toilets. The campaign aims to build a staggering 100 million household toilets and 500,000 community toilets.
According to the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, which is in charge of PM Modi’s “Clean India Campaign”, rural sanitation coverage has increased to 69% from 39%, more than 230-million people in villages have stopped defecating in the open and nearly 5 million toilets have been built in three years of campaign. The focus now is to ensure that villages declared free of open defecation (FOD) do not “slip back”. Verification of construction of toilets and usage, further building awareness, training of ‘sanitation motivators’ – one in every village – and treatment of waste are the priorities for the government, officials said.