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Open defecation

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Open defecation

Open defecation in Pandharpur - a pilgrimage town in India

Open defecation is the practice of defecating outside and not into a designated toilet. Open defecation is practiced all over the world; it is a significant health problem when occuring frequently in more densely populated areas.

High levels of open defecation in a country are usually correlated with a high child mortality, as well as high levels of undernutrition, high levels of poverty and large disparities between the rich and poor, although the correlation is not necessarily causal. Extreme poverty and lack of sanitation are statistically linked; eliminating open defecation is said to be an important part of development efforts.[1] [2]

About one billion people, or 15 percent of the global population, practice open defecation.[3] India is the country with the highest number of people practicing open defecation: around 600 million people.[4][5] [6] Most of it occurs in rural areas, where the prevalence is estimated at 65 percent of the population.[7] The other countries with the highest number of people openly defecating are Indonesia (54 million people), followed by Pakistan (41 million people), Nigeria (39 million), Ethiopia (34 million), and Sudan (17 million).[4]

Use of the term

The term "open defecation" was introduced around 2008 when the publications of the Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP) started having an impact during the UN International Year of Sanitation. For monitoring purposes, two categories were created: improved sanitation and unimproved sanitation. Open defecation falls into the latter category. This means that people practicing open defecation are counted as having no access to improved sanitation.

In 2013 World Toilet Day was celebrated as an official UN day for the first time and the term "open defecation" was used in high-level speeches.[8]

Waste dumping and open defecation in the area of Shadda, Cap-Haitien, Haiti
Open defecation in Tirin Kowt bazaar, Afghanistan
Open defecation along a river bank in Bujumbura, Burundi
Child defecating in a canal in the slum of Gege in the city of Ibadan, Nigeria
Drain used to defecate and urinate in Bangladesh
Open defecation and waste dumping area in Palijat in Gujarat state, India
A pit latrine in Mongolia


Open defecation free

"Open defecation free" is a term first used in Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) programs, and which has now entered use in other contexts. The original meaning was simply that all community members are using sanitation systems rather than practising open defecation. Further more stringent criteria have been added in countries where CLTS programs exist.[9]

The Indian Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation has in mid 2015 defined "open defecation free" as "the termination of fecal-oral transmission, defined by no visible feces found in the environment or village and every household as well as public/community institutions using safe technology option for disposal of feces".[10] This definition is part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India) campaign.

Health impacts

Open defecation is a factor in causing various diseases, most notably diarrhea and intestinal worm infections but also typhoid, cholera, hepatitis, polio, trachoma and others.[11][12] In 2011, infectious diarrhea resulted in about 0.7 million deaths in children under five years old and 250 million lost school days.[11][13] It can also lead to malnutrition and stunted growth in children.

Such diseases are grouped together under the name of waterborne diseases, which are diseases transmitted via fecal pathogens in water. Open defecation can lead to water pollution when rain events flush the feces that are dispersed in the environment into surface water or unprotected wells.

Open defecation was found by the WHO in 2014 to be a leading cause of diarrheal death; an average of 2,000 children under the age of five die every day from diarrhea.[14]

Regions where open defecation is most widely practiced have the highest numbers of deaths of children under the age of five, as well as high levels of malnourishment, high levels of poverty and large disparities between the rich and poor.[2]

Detrimental health impacts from open defecation are more pronounced when population density is high: "The same amount of open defecation is twice as bad in a place with a high population density average like India versus a low population density average like sub-Saharan Africa."[15]

As the absolute highest number of people practicing open defecation live in India,[4] various Indian government-led initiatives are ongoing to reduce open defecation in that country. In 2014, UNICEF began a multimedia campaign against open defecation in India, urging citizens to "take [their] poo to the loo."[16]

Data

The Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP) of UNICEF and WHO has been collecting data regarding the prevalence of open defecation worldwide. This program is tasked to monitor progress towards the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) relating to drinking water and sanitation. As open defecation is considered one example of unimproved sanitation, it is being monitored by JMP for each country and results published on a regular basis.[17] The figures on open defecation used to be lumped together with other figures on unimproved sanitation but are collected separately since 2010.

Over the past 22 years, the number of people practicing open defecation fell by 21%, from 1.3 billion in 1990 to one billion in 2012.[18] In an UNICEF study, 9 out of 10 people who practice open defecation live in rural areas.[18]

82% of the one billion people practicing open defecation in the world live in just 10 countries. India is the country with the highest number of people practicing open defecation: around 600 million people.[4] This is 47 percent of the population (13 percent of urban dwellers and 70 percent of villagers). The other countries with a high number of people openly defecating are Indonesia (54 million people), followed by Pakistan (41 million people), Nigeria (39 million) and Ethiopia (34 million).[4]

Toilet bags

Plastic bags (also called flying toilets) are commonly used.

Swedish company Peepoople started in 2009 to produce the "Peepoo bag" as an alternative. It is said to be a "personal, single-use, self-sanitizing, fully biodegradable toilet that prevents feces from contaminating the immediate area as well as the surrounding ecosystem".[19] This bag is now being used in humanitarian responses, schools and urban slums in developing countries.[20][21]

See also

References

  1. ^
  2. ^ a b JMP (2014). Progress on drinking water and sanitation, 2014 Update. WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP), ISBN 978 92 4 150724 0, page 11.
  3. ^ JMP (2014). Progress on drinking water and sanitation, 2014 Update. WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP), ISBN 978 92 4 150724 0 - Summary, page v
  4. ^ a b c d e JMP (2014). Progress on drinking water and sanitation, 2014 Update. WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP), ISBN 978 92 4 150724 0, page 19.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ JMP (2014). Progress on drinking water and sanitation, 2014 Update. WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP), ISBN 978 92 4 150724 0, Annex 3: Country, area or territory estimates on sanitation and drinking water
  8. ^
  9. ^ Cavill, S. with Chambers, R. and Vernon, N. (2015) ‘Sustainability and CLTS: Taking Stock’, Frontiers of CLTS: Innovations and Insights Issue 4, Brighton: IDS, ISBN 978-1-78118-222-2, p. 18
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ Vyas, S. et al. (2014). Population density and the effect of sanitation on early-life health, slide 19 (presentation at UNC conference in Oct. 2014) Research Institute for Compassionate Economics, project SQUAT (Sanitation Quality, Use, Access, and Trends): Evidence based sanitation advocacy for India (r.i.c.e.), USA
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ a b JMP (2014). Progress on drinking water and sanitation, 2014 Update. WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP), ISBN 978 92 4 150724 0, page 6
  19. ^ Wheaton, A. (2009). Results of a medium-scale trial of single-use, self-sanitising toilet bags in poor urban settlements in Bangladesh. Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GTZ), Dhaka, Bangladesh
  20. ^ Owako, E. (2012). Nyando peepoo trial project report. Kenya Red Cross, Kenya
  21. ^ Naeem, K., Berndtsson, M. (2011). Peepoo Try Pakistan - Sindh Floods, November 2011. UN-HABITAT, Pakistan

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