Nearly a Billion People Still Defecate Outdoors. Here’s Why

Nearly a Billion People Still Defecate Outdoors. Here’s Why. Nat Geo Magazine, August 2017.

The problem isn’t just a lack of toilets—it’s a lack of toilets that people want to use. The result: millions of deaths and disease-stunted lives.

At 65, Moolchand, bandy-legged and white-haired, has no problem rising for his predawn hunts. In fact he revels in them.

“I hide along the lane with my flashlight,” he says in a low, excited voice, gesturing down the main road of Gaji Khedi village, in India’s Madhya Pradesh state. “And I look for people walking with a lota.”

At a community toilet complex in Safeda Basti, one of Delhi’s many slums, women wait their turn for the single functioning latrine—while covering their noses against the smell of feces left by someone who couldn’t wait. Many people skip the hassle of city-run facilities altogether and do their business in rubble-strewn lots.

At a community toilet complex in Safeda Basti, one of Delhi’s many slums, women wait their turn for the single functioning latrine—while covering their noses against the smell of feces left by someone who couldn’t wait. Many people skip the hassle of city-run facilities altogether and do their business in rubble-strewn lots.

A lota is a water container, traditionally made of brass but these days more often of plastic. Spied outdoors in the early morning, it all but screams that its owner is headed for a field or roadside to move his or her bowels—the water is for rinsing.

“I give chase,” Moolchand continues. “I blow my whistle, and I dump out their lota. Sometimes I take it away and burn it.” Moolchand sees himself as defending a hard-won honor: The district has declared his village “open defecation free.”

“People get angry and shout at me when I stop them,” he says. “But the government has given villagers lots of help to construct a toilet, so there is no excuse.”

Read the complete article.

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