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The curse of non-access to water and sanitation

Have you ever been attacked by a rapist while you tried to get a glass of water from the kitchen? Or did your parents ever made you leave schooling as you had entered into mensuration stage?

The above questions may sound funny to the fortunate ones who are able to access clean water and also follow proper practices to sanitation. But the situation is very critical in reality as there is still a presence of around 200 million people in India who defecate in open on account of non-access to water and poor sanitation facility at home. The situation is very critical and has been damaging the entire community especially women and young girls.

Issues faced by females due to non-access to water and sanitation

Every day the females have to walk for several miles to fetch a pail of water for carrying out the household chores. The great distances traveled by them impact their ability to perform other works especially there birthright which is to get access to quality education. Even those girls who are able to attend schools usually miss an average of 4 days on a monthly basis on account of menstrual flow. The lack of safe bathrooms in schools makes the girls uncomfortable and hence they prefer staying at home which in some cases results in dropouts. Not only has this, defecating in open made them vulnerable to sexual assaults and attack by animals as well as deadly insects. They also catch sanitation-related hookworm infections that affect their overall health.

Returning back to academics, it is well known that investing in a female’s education can aid in the economic growth of the nation. In this regard, the government may start policies for educating girls or may lure the parents by starting several schemes to send girls to schools but none of it will make a difference if a water and sanitation facility is not improved.

Seeds project in Somalia

The Somalian nation has a presence of just 37 percent of females who are going to school which depicts an astonishingly low number. This has a direct correlation with lack of access to water and sanitation. There was an implementation of SEEDS project by USAID from 2008 to 2012 which put 12,666 females in school and also increased WASH facilities. These projects clearly showcase what can happen if financial contributions are implemented in combination with a well-organized plan.

Steps taken by the Indian government

Getting proper access to sanitation has attracted a lot of attention in India over past few years on account of the Swachh Bharat Mission launched by Modi government in 2014. The project seeks to make the nation free from open defecation by October 2019. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) has praised this approach and has said that India could avert around 3 lakh deaths if there is a 100 percent implementation of this scheme.

Final words

To reach this goal, the need is to focus on two main aspects being a behavioral change in the masses towards adopting good sanitation practices and also building of new infrastructure. As of now, India has headed in the right direction to ensure that every house gains access to an individual toilet. But a multi-dimension approach is still needed to cover all aspects of sanitation. The road is long but still, it is an important step in the right direction.

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