Open Defecation Ends in Bangladesh – Almost | Source: The Wire, March 7 2016 |
Bangladesh has virtually eliminated open air defecation, bringing it down to only 1% of its population who do not have access to indoor toilet facilities.
For most of her 50 years, Rokeya Begum has lived without a toilet in her house – waiting for the curtain of darkness to go out to the fields or the jungles near her village to defecate, come winter, summer, rain or illness. Not any more though. With Bangladesh declaring itself virtually open defecation free, Rokeya Begum, too, has a sanitary latrine in the tiny home she shares with five other family members.
In a remarkable achievement, official data reveals that open defecation has reduced to only 1%, a “milestone change” from the 42% in 2003, making it a role model for other countries in the region. Approximately 595 million people in India, about half the population, do not use toilets. In Pakistan the number is 41 million, or about 21%, while for Nepal the number is 15.5 million, or 54% of the population. Only Sri Lanka, of all other South Asian states, has managed, like Bangladesh, to virtually wipe out open air defecation.
“We have no sanitation problem. Although we are poor, we are living in society now with dignity,” Rokeya Begum, who lives in Kishoreganj’s Gobaria village, says with a broad smile. Like poor households in the country, her family would also use the roadside, open fields and jungles to defecate. Then things changed when the local administration helped her install a sanitary latrine in her home a few years ago.
As Bangladesh makes huge strides towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), virtually the entire country has been brought under the sanitation umbrella. It was a life changer for Rokaya and millions of Bangladeshis, particularly women, who put their health at risk as they waited endless hours for nightfall to defecate, as well as bore the ignominy of the practice.
Moreover, open defecation contaminates fruits and vegetables, pollutes surface and groundwater and spreads diseases. Diarrhoeal diseases remain common in Bangladesh, causing around 100,000 deaths a year, due to contamination of food and drinking water, according to icddr,b.
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