Hygiene and Sanitation are long term issues but the density of population in India makes them prevalent. The WHO points out that 50% of malnutrition is related to insufficient hygiene and inadequate sanitation through repeated diarrhea or intestinal infection. In the Thar Desert, natural conditions are not helpful considering the lack of clean water but more than that, the lack of awareness and infrastructures need to be addressed.
Toilets as common as they can seem are not the norm in India where half of the population, 600millions people, still defecate in the open. It reaches 61% of the population in rural areas. A third of all people worldwide who defecate in the open live in one of these Northern states: Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. Even though the Latrines Coverage rate has increased up to 67, 10 % in the last decades; the use rate is only 12, 90 %. Several reasons are part of the disuse of household’s toilets: unfinished installation, lack of water, poor disposal arrangement but mainly lack of behavioral change. Therefore the risks of open defection have to be highlighted. Human contact with hazards of wastes, mostly feces and urines can provoke severe diarrhea which is a prevalent devastating burden in India causing nearly 2 Lakh children death per year. It emphasizes that sanitation is a real challenge as far as making understand the benefits of toilets and changing social norms and behaviors about hygiene.
Providing sanitary facilities
To play an effective role, GRAVIS support households to access personal toilets and foster their use. It carries out regular check on the one they built to avoid their deterioration which is one of the reason for their abandonment. The goal is to reach 100% Open defecation free (ODF) communities which is difficult to tackle but can be a foundation to bring behavioral change in hygiene practices.
Acting for cultural change
Education is the keystone of the practice of the WASH services (standing for water, sanitation, hygiene).
To spread those behaviors, GRAVIS holds awareness workshops and trainings to inform inhabitants of rural areas. They target easy and effective habits to improve hygiene like washing hands with soap, waste water disposal or washing workshop. It gathers groups of villagers to discover in a playful way the benefits that these small changes can induce. The meetings are also a way to include cleaning and washing processes in the daily life of the community until it becomes habits.
All these efforts to raise awareness over generations are the basis for improving health condition. Therefore it is still a long way to go to change behaviors and the target need to be broaden to include forgotten requirements of full sanitation like garbage management which is less a burning issue in term of health but can bring long term environmental troubles.
*by Mathilde Serange, Volunteer