About four (38.9 percent) of ten Indian households defecated in the open, according to the latest national health data gathered in 2015-16, down from 55.3 percent a decade before that, a decline of 16.4 percentage points.
While 10.5 percent of urban households defecated in the open in 2015-16, compared to 16.8 percent a decade before that, more than half (54.1 percent) of India’s rural households used no toilet or defecated in the open, compared to 74 percent of rural households who did so in 2005-06, according to the National Family Health Surveys in 2005-06 and 2015-16.
Access to sanitation reduces the spread of diarrhoea –caused by bacterial, viral and parasitic infections, mostly spread by faeces-contaminated water– studies show. Diarrhoea is the leading cause of malnutrition, and is the second leading cause of death in children under five years, as India Spend reported on 29 July 2017.
In 2015-16, almost half of Indian households (48.4 percent) –70.3 percent urban and 36.7 percent rural– had “improved sanitation facilities”, officialise for toilets where waste is disposed without human contact.
Only 14.9 percent urban and 6.1 percent rural households used a shared improved toilet, while 3.7 percent urban and 3.1 percent rural households used “unimproved” toilets, which include dry latrines, flush latrines not connected to sewer, pit latrine without a slab or an open pit.
In rural areas, the caste system, untouchability and beliefs about benefits of defecating in the open contribute to high open defecation rates, Dean Spears and Diane Coffey, sanitation researchers, told India Spend in an interview on 13 August 2017.
On 2 October 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) or Clean India Mission with the goal of making India open-defecation-free by 2019, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
More than 49 million households in India have toilets–up from 38.7 percent in 2014 to 69.04 percent in 2017. Yet, only 62 percent of 207 districts and 63 percent of 249,811 villages declared ‘open-defecation-free’ have been verified, Fact Checker reported on 2 October 2017.
The World Bank, which had promised a loan of $1.5 billion (Rs 10,500 crore) for SBM-Gramin, did not release the first instalment due in July 2016 because India did not fulfill the condition of conducting and announcing results of an independent verification survey and termed the scheme’s implementation “moderately unsatisfactory”, India Spend reported on 24 May 2017.
(This article was originally published on India Spend, and has been republished here with permission)
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