Open defecation in rural villages is a serious health problem throughout the developing world.
Although children are often educated regarding the associated health issues, in many villages there are no proper public or private sanitation facilities. Generally, villagers defecate in open spaces, where flies and rats spread contaminants and disease. During the rainy season, the situation often escalates and the waste contaminates the groundwater. The health of the villagers and the health of their environment are both greatly affected by the lack of clean toilets. Our programs focus on improving villagers' access to and use of toilets to address this problem.
Tackling the Sanitation Problem
The Government of India has attempted to introduce the concept of public toilets in rural villages with unsatisfactory results. Discussions with government officials and village elders have revealed that when public toilets have been built in villages, they have only been used effectively for a couple of months. After that the toilets become too filthy for use. Previous public toilet installations have not included measures for keeping the facilities clean. Villagers are not prepared to take responsibility independently for cleaning public toilets. Neither are they willing to walk considerable distances to access public toilets. Further, in general younger girls and women are afraid to use public toilets, because they face problems of harassment by village men. At night, everyone is confronted with the danger of snake bites.
Installing a limited number of strategically-located public toilets (in schools, health centers and community centers) that can be absorbed within and maintained utilizing existing community social infrastructure is useful. However, tackling the Sanitation Problem at large requires installing toilets at villagers’ homes. Constructing private toilets also encourages residents to maintain cleanliness in the village.