Bangladesh stops open defecation in just over a decade

This is a tremendous amount of progress, in a very short amount of time, done by one of the poorest countries on earth.

If Bangladesh can solve this problem, then there’s no reason why all the other countries that still have this problem can’t solve it too.

 

https://apnews.com/6d881414fcc44ba89a8b47fdea037215

Bangladesh stops open defecation in just over a decade

July 16, 2016

BORMI, Bangladesh (AP) — Answering nature’s call was once a nightmare for Rashida Begum, who had to creep around the jungle for a suitably private spot. Her home had no toilet, like the thousands of others in her crowded cluster of farming villages outside the capital.

In just over a decade, that’s all changed, in her neighborhood and many others.

Through a dogged campaign to build toilets and educate Bangladeshis about the dangers of open defecation, the densely populated South Asian nation has managed to reduce the number of people who defecate in the open to just 1 percent of the 166 million population, according to the government — down from 42 percent in 2003.

“Once it was our habit to go to the fields or jungles. Now, it is shameful to us,” Begum said in Bormi, a cluster of poor farming villages just outside Dhaka, the capital. “Even our children do not defecate openly anymore. We do not need to ask them; they do it on their own.”

Bangladesh’s success in sanitation — something so far unattained by its wealthier neighbor to the south, India — came from a dogged campaign supported by 25 percent of the country’s overall development budget.

“The government has made a huge commitment,” said Akramul Islam, director for water, sanitation and hygiene of the development NGO Brac. “The government decided that funds should go to the extreme poor who do not have latrines. So that basically gives a big push from the public sector for spending on sanitation.”

The government’s engineers also partnered with village councils and charities to spread the message on how toilets are key to better health. Rising incomes — moving from an average of $1,154 in 2012-13 to $1,314 in the last fiscal year, according to the World Bank — also helped to drive demand, Islam said.

Activists say small-scale surveys show that the campaign has improved public health, though there are not yet any government statistics to prove it more broadly.

“We see clearly that there is a decline in waterborne diseases and diarrheal diseases, so there is a clear link there,” Islam said, while acknowledging that the improvement was something “we have to study.”

Begum said her children have had no stomach illnesses since she installed an in-house toilet.

Open defecation is considered a major public health menace, causing childhood diarrhea, parasitic worm infections and other scourges that contribute to childhood stunting, malnutrition and tens of billions of dollars in lost productivity every year. Diarrheal diseases kill 700,000 children every year in India alone — most of which could have been prevented with better sanitation.

India has spent about $3 billion since 1986 on campaigning and sanitation programs, but has not come close to Bangladesh’s success. Two-thirds of India’s 1.25 billion people still use the great outdoors as their public latrine. About half of Nepal’s 30 million people and about 20 percent of Pakistan’s 182 million also do not have facilities at home.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made public sanitation a hallmark of his “Clean India” drive, promising that every home would have a toilet by 2019 and setting aside hundreds of millions of dollars for the job. India has already built around 20 million toilets, but still has another 111 million to build to reach its goal.

Bangladesh’s sanitation victory didn’t come easy. Millions of dollars from the government and charities were spent, and campaign volunteers said they worked hard to change public attitudes and habits.

Many villagers — particularly men — preferred going outdoors, where they could think in private, survey their lands or just feel the evening breeze or gaze at the sky. For women, however, having no toilet was both a nuisance and a danger, as many said they had to wait for nightfall for privacy.

“We had to cover our noses during rainy season because of the bad smell,” said field campaigner Al Amin Akand of the charity Plan International, which works on community issues. “We had to work for years to motivate the villagers.”

Back in 2008, most people in Bormi had no choice but to use the surrounding forests to defecate.

“We had to do fierce campaigning,” going door-to-door for years, said Mohammed Badal Sarker, chairman of a local village council. The council even turned children into whistleblowers — literally.

“We provided schoolchildren with whistles to alert the villagers. It worked like magic,” the chairman said. Children were encouraged to shout slogans like “Defecating in the open is the enemy of the people” and “No one will marry your daughter if you do not have a toilet at home.”

The drive has even sparked a new industry in household sanitation, with small businesses cropping up across the country to sell the components for making inexpensive latrines. All it takes, they say, is an investment of $12 to $60 to buy two to three concrete rings and a concrete pan.

“Now you will not find a home without a sanitary latrine,” Sarkar said.

There is still cause for concern. Bangladesh’s overpopulated urban areas are proving to be more of a challenge, mostly because the opportunity for contaminating the water supply is much greater.

“People might be using a toilet or a latrine, but then where does the human waste go from there?” said John Sauer, senior technical adviser of the Washington-based Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Population Services International (PSI). Waste water could be dumped on a field where children play, or where food is grown. “We must address where the human waste goes and how it is treated, disposed or reused.”

Still, Sauer said, the achievement of virtually eradicating open defecation in just a decade is astonishing.

“Bangladesh has a lot to teach the rest of the developing world,” he said.

January 16, 2018. Tags: , , , , . Sanitation. 1 comment.

India turns to public shaming to get people to use its 52 million new toilets

I’d like to see the TV show Black Mirror do an episode on this!

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/india-turns-to-public-shaming-to-get-people-to-use-its-52million-new-toilets/2017/11/03/882166fe-b41c-11e7-9b93-b97043e57a22_story.html

India turns to public shaming to get people to use its 52 million new toilets

November 5, 2017

BEED, India — The patrols started at dawn, and the villagers scattered, abandoning their pails of water to avoid humiliation and fines.

Every morning in this district in rural India, teams of government employees and volunteer “motivators” roam villages to publicly shame those who relieve themselves in the open. The “good-morning squads” are part of what one official called “the largest behavioral-change program anywhere in the world.”

This is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship Clean India initiative in mission mode. By October 2019, Modi has vowed, every Indian will have access to a toilet, and the country will be free of the scourge of open defecation. Since Modi came to power, more than 52 million toilets have been installed. But the trick, sanitation experts say, is getting people to use them.

To win favor with the ruling party’s top brass, government officials have set to work, trying to outpace one another with toilet-building races and eye-catching information campaigns. Many are resorting to controversial public shaming tactics.

“This is harassment,” said one villager, Ranjit Gonjare. “The person becomes the laughingstock of the village.”

India’s sanitation crisis is an urgent priority: 53 percent of Indian households had no toilet in 2011, the latest census figures show. Human feces litters public spaces, spreading diseases that contribute to hundreds of thousands of deaths every year. People wait all day to defecate in darkness, which has health and safety implications. Children, especially menstruating girls, skip school because of a lack of toilets. One report pegged the economic cost of India’s sanitation problem at $106.5 billion in 2015, 5.2 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

Santram Gonjare felt the sting of humiliation one recent morning, when a squad flagged him down as he was walking along a highway.

They knew what the 55-year-old was about to do because he was holding a pail of water that he would use to wash himself after defecating. They knocked the pail out of his hand and crushed it under their feet. Then they offered him a flower, a sign of goodwill, and told him to use a toilet in the future.

Gonjare hung his head as he walked home. He went out to defecate, he said, because his nine-person household has only one toilet, and he couldn’t bear to wait his turn. “How can that feel okay?” he said of his experience with the squad. “I felt worthless. It’s not the right way to treat old people.”

Such encounters are routine in Beed, where people without toilets risk having their welfare benefits taken away and can be barred from running for public office. Elsewhere, officials use methods that verge on coercion — or worse. In one recent case, a man was publicly lynched after he tried to stop authorities from photographing women who were defecating in the open. A news channel urged viewers to send in images and names of those who defecate in the open so they could be shamed on national television.

“This work has to be done,” said Dhanraj Nila, chief executive of Beed district, who regularly goes out on morning patrols. He said the squads’ shaming methods were necessary to “motivate” people to use toilets. “People keep saying Beed is a backward district.”

Modi’s Clean India mission has drawn international support. After a recent visit to India, Bill Gates extolled the mission’s “impressive” speed. USAID pledged $2 million annually and introduced ranking systems to trigger “competition between cities.” The World Bank offered a $1.5 billion loan to help speed the sanitation programs. UNICEF, the U.N. children’s agency, is providing training and education tools, although a spokesman distanced the organization from the Indian government’s “name and shame” programs.

Some argue that Modi is overly optimistic about the pace of change. “No country anywhere in the world has come anywhere close to eliminating open defecation that fast,” said economist Dean Spears, a sanitation expert, referring to the 2019 target. “There’s no reason to think this is going to be an exception. It’s very easy to say that it’s a behavioral-change program. But when 500 to 600 million people defecate in the open, you need an awful lot of people on the ground to change that.”

India is vast and difficult to govern; in outlying regions such as Beed, where central control is weak and corruption levels high, shame and honor are the mechanisms through which communities police themselves. Many villagers in Beed praised the government’s methods, showing off areas that once were open-air toilets and now are children’s playgrounds.

Many said the squads are doing a service. “This is the only way. People have stopped [defecating] outdoors because of fear,” said Meera Bandu Bhise, one of Gonjare’s neighbors.

Satish Umrikar, who oversees sanitation activities in the state of Maharashtra, where Beed is located, said the mission’s ambitious targets are crucial to its success. An estimated 91 percent of people in rural areas in Maharashtra now have access to toilets, double the percentage in 2014, with 1.9 million installed in the past fiscal year.

Despite rapid economic growth, India lags behind in sanitation, partly because people don’t want to do the undignified work of cleaning latrine pits, labor traditionally reserved for lower castes. To change attitudes, squads use several techniques, including door-to-door visits and sanitation workshops.

The village of Lolad is considered free of open defecation. People described how, at first, older residents refused to use toilets. “Little children used to chase people blowing whistles,” one villager said. “If we saw anyone with a pail of water, we’d send our own children after them.”

Beed’s geography makes it a particularly difficult region in which to change habits. In the summers, particularly in years of drought, the land becomes parched, and lines to collect water from communal pumps stretch for hours. Villagers buy water from local authorities for drinking and bathing. To them, clean toilets are a luxury. Many villagers who have toilets at home said they go outdoors to save water.

“The government should concentrate on providing necessary services,” said Vandana Prasad, a public health activist. “In many villages there is no regular water supply, no sewage system. This government has an attitude of clamping down. It’s a bit more stick than carrot.”

Squad members described their work as “gandhigiri,” referring to Gandhi’s nonviolent method of tackling problems. Maharashtra official Umrikar said the public shaming tactics are only one part of a wider government effort to change habits. “This is required in initial phases,” he said of the squads. “Once there is understanding, we will phase it out.”

January 14, 2018. Tags: , , , , , . Sanitation. 1 comment.