NEW DELHI, India, 18 September 2012 – The Government of India (GoI) today launched the National Sanitation and Hygiene Advocacy and Communication Strategy developed with UNICEF’s support.
The strategy was announced at the first ever national meeting held by the Minister of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Shri Jairam Ramesh with the district officials responsible for delivering country’s flagship sanitation programme in over 600 districts in the country.
The strategy jointly developed with UNICEF aims to move towards an open defecation free India by 2022.
“There is only one goal and one parameter. Are the villages of India open defecation free? Saturation is the key word,” said Jairam Ramesh.
In India, more than 600 million people are defecating in the open. To address this challenge, and as part of the initiatives of the programme, GoI decided to design a new strategy for sanitation with the support of UNICEF. The strategy defines the way forward for advocacy, awareness raising, behavior change and communication activities to be rolled out across India over the next five years.
UNICEF was invited at the meeting as a key partner to unpack the communication strategy for the government functionaries. Led by UNICEF Resident Representative to India, Louis Georges Arsenault, the Water Sanitation and Hygienee (WASH) team engaged with the Minister and the district officers to highlight the challenges and opportunities in rolling out the communication strategy in the field.
“UNICEF will now continue to provide technical assistance to state governments to secure these messages at community and household levels. Throughout October, as the government’s national campaign is officially launched, UNICEF will also focus its advocacy on an open defecation free India, for all children,” said Mr. Arsenault.
The Importance of Convergence
One of the key elements of the new sanitation programme of the government is the focus on convergence. Secretaries and additional secretaries from the Ministries of Health, Rural Development and Women and Child Development shared the dais with the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation to emphasize the linkages between sanitation, nutrition and health and illustrate the government’s commitment towards a convergent approach for an open defecation free India.
Officials of the other ministries outlined measures taken to align the Government’s flagship programmes in child nutrition, WASH and health to accelerate results for children and families.
Anuradha Gupta, Director of the National Rural Health Mission said, “Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs), ground level workers of the Department of Health) have been advised to take the messages about sanitation and health to all the households.”
UNICEF WASH state project officers took the opportunity to inform the Minister about the sanitation programmes they are implementing.
The team explained that convergence has been a key feature of sanitation programmes in the states where UNICEF is active. An example of this is the convergence with the Ministry of Rural Development to mobilise women’s self-help groups to become sanitation champions.
As a result of this collaboration, 100,000 toilets were built in Medak district in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh in 100 days.
In the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, UNICEF helped devise an action plan to convert more than 70,000 unsanitary toilets to pour flush toilets in high-risk polio districts; involving 21 line departments working together to deliver the plan.
In eastern Indian state of West Bengal, UNICEF has worked with the government to demonstrate WASH in schools in over 700 schools in East Midnapurpur district. A teacher’s training module for WASH in schools has been approved that showthat show clear linkages betweenlinkages between child height and improved sanitation and hygiene.
The challenge in India is enormous but UNICEF is well placed to meet it. Through its presence in New Delhi and 13 state offices, UNICEF uses quality research and data to understand issues, implements new and innovative interventions that address the situation of the poorest and most disadvantaged women and children, and works with partners to accelerate change.