Caritas Australia Works With Local Partners To Make India More Sanitary

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India for a long time has faced the issue of open defecation. According to the latest figures from Unicef and World Health Organisation, the country has the highest number of people that defecate in the open. The results of the 2011 Indian census suggest that just one third of the country’s rural population have access to indoor toilets. Caritas Australia has been working with partners in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh to make a dent in this statistic.

Very few villages were funded

For more than three years The Hamara Haq program which translated means Our Rights Program has been working in the state. The program seeks to provide awareness to people living in this rural state on how to be more sanitary. Prior to Caritas Australia becoming involved in the project, just 10 per cent of the families in villages funded by the Catholic aid agency had toilets. Since becoming involved the change has been dramatic. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently visited Rajnandgaon District to declare that the Amabargh Chowki Block is open defecation free.

Raising awareness about sanitation

Caritas Australia was able to participate in the success thanks to its Hamara Haq Program partner as well as the efforts of local leaders. Local government officials and the local partner engaged in various activities to raise awareness such as community discussions, training sessions and street plays all of which were designed to encourage people to construct and use indoor toilets. Open defecation can result in a myriad of health and hygiene problems.

“In communities where the typical household lives a daily existence with little in reserve to cover misfortunes, sickness from ill-heath is a heavy burden,” says Kylie Supramaniam, Caritas Australia’s Program Coordinator for India. “It not only incurs additional medical expenses but also impacts work to be undertaken on the family’s kitchen-farm.”

Women disproportionately affected

One particularly troubling statistic is that women are disproportionately impacted since they have a need for privacy particularly once they reach puberty. Roughly one fifth of Indian girls drop out of school upon reaching puberty. That is 20 per cent of the next generation of Indian women who will not achieve their full education potential. The fact that the Indian Prime Minister chose to acknowledge the achievement in Amabagarh Chowki Block gives agencies like Caritas Australia the encouragement that the agency and its partners needs to know they are on the right track.

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