FAQs - Open Defecation
A: Open defecation refers to the practice whereby people go out in the open rather than using the toilet to defecate. The practice is rampant in India and the country is home to the world’s largest population of people who defecate in open. Over 620 million people, over half the population in India, defecate in open. India accounts for 90 per cent people in South Asia and 59 per cent of the 1.1 billion people in the world who practice open defecation
A: Open defecation poses serious threat to health of children in India. The practice is the main reason India reports the highest number of diarrhoeal deaths among children under-five in the world. Every year, diarrhoea kills 188,000 children under five in India. In Picture- Pathways through which pathogens in excreta find their way back to people causing diseases. Children weakened by frequent diarrhoea episodes are more vulnerable to malnutrition, stunting, and opportunistic infections such as pneumonia. About 43 per cent of children in India suffer from some degree of malnutrition. Diarrhoea and worm infection are two major health conditions that affect school age children impacting their learning abilities. More importantly, open defecation also puts at risk the dignity of women in India. Women feel constrained to relieve themselves only under the cover of dark for reasons of privacy to protect their dignity. However, this exposes women to the danger of sexual attacks and encounters such as snake bites. In Bihar alone, over 40 per cent of rapes were reported when women were going for open defecation. Poor sanitation also cripples national development: workers produce less, live shorter lives, save and invest less, and are less able to send their children to school.
A: Open defecation is a well-established traditional practice deeply ingrained from early childhood. Sanitation is a socially unacceptable topic and as a result, is not discussed. Consequently, open defecation has persisted as a norm for many Indians. Other reasons that can be cited for its persistence include poverty (the inability to afford toilets), landlessness, tenants in housing without toilets (usually urban), and of course cultural and social norms that have established open defecation as acceptable practice. There is also a strong belief that children’s faeces are harmless which is untrue as often child faeces carry higher pathogen loading than adults. As a result, children’s faeces are often disposed of in the environment, either close to dwellings or in open drains. No wonder creating a norm around Open Defecation Elimination (ODE) is a big challenge in country.
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