Experts call for sensitising people so that they use toilets and not defecate in the open
Sakshi Kuchroo | April 22, 2016 | New Delhi
Regional communications specialist at the World Bank, Vandana Mehra, on Thursday said that India is 32 years behind schedule in attaining its sanitation goal. “World Bank study shows that there is a gap of Rs. 2.5 trillion in sanitation cost in India. Twenty three percent of girls drop out of school only because they don’t have toilets. Over 60 percent of the population defecates in the open. The number is alarming,” she said.
Mehra was speaking at the Impact Conclave 2016, a two-day convention held in Delhi, which intended to fix the spotlight on developmental impact in various sectors like water sanitation and hygiene, public health, nutrition, corporate social responsibility and education.
She added that government has been spending a lot of money to set up toilets in rural areas but they are not being used. “The idea of a Swachh Bharat is not limited to constructing toilets in rural areas but making sure that they are being used and also maintained. The problem is that people in these areas are not used to the idea of going to a toilet. So, we really need a behavioral change,” she said.
According to data mentioned by Caroline Den Dulk, chief of communication, UNICEF India, globally 564 million people do not use toilets and defecate in the open and a major portion of that belongs to India. As many as 1,000 children under 5 years of age die every day in India due to diarrhea caused by poor sanitation. “We need to start focusing on people who do use toilets. It is time for them to speak up and spread awareness amongst those who don’t use toilets. It is high time that we influence and engage together to end the problem of open defecation in India,” Dulk said.
Sonali Khan, vice president at Breakthrough, a global human rights organization, said that we can never bring a change by forcing the people to use toilets, it has to be done be effective communication, which is a two way street. “The idea is to implant a doubt in the people that what they are doing is wrong. Communication is a powerful tool and it should be used to create a space where people feel safe enough to talk about their doubts and listen to the solutions that are ultimately meant for their well-being,” Khan said.
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