Infants of the Nation Are Dying; India Looses Around 4,00,000 Children Annually Over Poor Sanitation & Bad Water

December 31st, 2014

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Centre for Public Policy, New Delhi

In a ‘land with 100 problems and billion solutions as depicted by an Indian Nobel Prize Winner & Activist Kailash Satyarthi’, its hard to decide what to discuss first; a problem or a solution! India is facing an alarming situation of toilet crunch sophistically named as ‘Toilet Crisis’ and the innocent victims are children who die due to poor sanitation and contaminated water.

With more than half of the inhabitants defecating in open, around 638 million Indians live without toilets. Roads, agriculture fields or railway tracks act as relieving ground for more than 50% Indian populace as stated in an UNICEF’s 2013 report.

Nearly 44% mothers allow their infants to defecate in open fields and dispose off their children’s faeces in open grounds; maximizing the risk of microbial contamination via land, water and air. It is not only the lack of food which is killing India’s future, but it is the easily avoidable diseases such as diarrhoea and respiratory infections hitting the infant mortality rate inversely.

According to the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) report, one child dies in every 20 second due to diarrhea and other sanitary diseases; which is nearly 1.5 million preventable deaths every year. Unhygienic surroundings, contaminated drinking water, denied toilet facility are solely responsible for malnutrition among Indian children.

Lack of basic sanitation facilities has not only killed our children, but it has also cost us our dignity. According to 2011’s WaterAid & DFID Sanitation and Hygiene Applied Research for Equity, women residing in urban slums of Delhi reported incidents of girls under 10 being raped and molested on their way to use a public toilet. According to a statement passed by a senior police official of Bihar, nearly 400 women would have ‘escaped from rape’ in 2013 if they had toilets in their home.

As a matter of fact, around 300 million women and girls of India do not have access to toilet facilities and have to defecate outdoors. Vulgar annotations, physical gestures and even rape is what a woman is vulnerable to while defecating in open. There are many nations apart from India which faces violence against women due to insufficient toilet facility; but for an aspiring superpower nation such as India, it is a shame.

Government of India has invested more than Rs1,250 billion on sanitation and water projects in the last 20 years, which presently costs India Rs. 2.4 trillion or 6.4% of the current GDP; as estimated by the World Bank.

India had its first sewage system in Kolkata in 1870 and after 142 years of progress, only 209 cities out of 5161 has a sewage system. Around 65 million children in India are stunted, chronic malnutritioned and vulnerable to sickness and disease, weak immune system, restricted cognitive and physical development and high risk of death under age 5.

Centre for Public Policy believes that in a country where technologies such as mobiles are more affordable than toilets, what’s really needed is a reform in the overall sanitisation program. India needs to reconstruct its national sanitation program and focus more on subsidizing construction of toilets and steps must be taken to make facilities like toilets affordable for all. Focus must also be given upon educating commoners and helping them understand the benefits of having a toilet. Right to respect and dignity is what a basic sanitation facility such as toilet brings for a woman and their families. Toilets not only provide safety against countless communicable diseases, but it also provides security to a woman and girl child. To accomplish Modi’s promise of “Toilets first, Temples later”, BJP-led government needs to focus more towards a social reform that can change Indian mindsets and their sanitation habits. Providing dignity and security to a women is the responsibility of every household and prioritizing toilets over other facilities is what every Indian needs to understand.

CPP is a think tank, based in Delhi committed to dialogue and discussion on a wide array of issues like better governance, equity and inclusiveness, harmony in society, education et al…

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