Open Defecation Free – A Distant Dream?

Open defecation has been a huge problem throughout history in our country. It is mainly associated with people with the lowest incomes or no incomes at all and is witnessed not only in rural areas but in urban areas as well.

According to Unicef, In 2015, nearly half of India’s population did not have access to toilets and a proper sanitation system. As a result, people are forced to defecate in fields, railway tracks, forests and other public spaces. Moreover, Unicef also highlights that half of the world’s population with no choice but to defecate in the open belongs to India. What is more appalling is that one in every fifth school in India does not have clean working toilets made for girls. Thus, lack of hygiene and proper sanitation has led to a high neonatal mortality rate of 24 deaths for 1000 live births.

The ill-effects of a Hazardous Practice
Due to open defecation and poor sanitation practices, tons of faeces are introduced daily into the environment, leading to chances of direct contact of faeces with people.
Without proper sanitation, the risk of spreading diarrheal and waterborne diseases has become huge and as a result, according to an estimate by Unicef, nearly 100,000 children under the age of five have died due to diarrheal conditions.

Poor sanitation practices have also affected the sanitation workers as they suffer from many diseases while working. They are not provided with proper gear like gloves, masks and suits and when they enter dumps and drains, they are exposed to toxic gases and fumes that ultimately lead to their death.