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"UNICEF Study has shown that only 35% of India’s population is using improved sanitation facilities"
Clean water, proper sanitation facilities and hygiene are essential for the human survival. Yet, in many developing countries, including India, we see that majority of the population does not have access to proper sanitation facilities. In fact, in India, only 35% of the population is using improved sanitation facilities. Since the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) was established to look into children’s rights, the body is working closely with local partners in India to improve the child’s sanitation environment, household hygiene and school environment.
In India, respiratory infections and diarrhea are the leading causes of child deaths. This is because 638 million people, 50 percent of the population, defecate in public spaces, and 44 percent of the mothers in India dispose their children’s faeces indiscriminately in the open, increasing the risk of microbial contamination of water, which leads to diarrhea and respiratory infections in children.
Those who frequently have these health problems are prone to malnutrition and according to the UNICEF, 48% of the children in India suffer from malnutrition. Because of these health conditions, intellectual and physical growth of children is hampered. Sanitary conditions in schools are no different from those in public spaces.
Many schools in India do not have adequate and clean water supply, affecting the attendance and performance of children. According to the UNICEF, many adolescent girls in rural areas drop out of schools because of the lack of proper toilet facilities. In fact, in rural India, only 21% of the population has access to improved sanitation facilities.
The Public Health Association has released shocking findings about India and the lack of hygiene among the citizens. According to the health body, only 53 percent of the population washes hands with soap after defecation, 30% percent of the population washes hands with soap before preparing food, and only 38% washes hands with soap before consuming food.
These findings are alarming but say a lot about our personal hygiene practices. Apart from having access to proper sanitation facilities, the population needs to practice good personal hygiene. Studies have shown that by washing hands properly with soap, diarrheal morbidity can be reduced by 44 percent.
UNICEF is working closely with the government of India to improve sanitation facilities in both rural and urban areas. Every year, on 27th October, India celebrates the ‘Global Handwashing Day’, where people are shown the proper way of washing hands to prevent the outbreak of diseases. The government has come up with the National Urban Sanitation Policy to create ‘totally sanitized cities’ that are free of faeces in open grounds and establish proper solid waste disposal systems.
According to the Ministry of Urban Development, 40% of the cities in India are in the ‘red’ category, where immediate action is required to improve sanitation facilities; 50% are in the ‘black’ category, where considerable actions and improvements are required; and only a number of cities are in the ‘blue’ category, in the stage of recovery. Sadly, no city is in the ‘green’ category, which is indicative of a clean and green city. To promote better personal hygiene and sanitary practices, the government is planning to give the Nirmal Shahar Puraskar award to cities with improved sanitation facilities.
India has a long way to go when it comes to the improvement of sanitation facilities. Both rural and urban areas need to eradicate improper personal hygiene and sanitary practices for the welfare of the community. Many NGOs, government agencies and international bodies are working closely to improve the levels of sanitation in the country. However, we can only reach the peak of success with the support of the population in the various sanitation programs established in the country.