A Place to Go: Sanitation and Open Defecation
Inside the Hidden Dangers of Life Without Toilets
by Andrea Bruce
In our heavily populated world, poor sanitation contaminates water and food supplies, making it one of the most deadly issues humans face today. But words like open defecation, feces and sanitation are uncomfortable. This is rarely a topic politicians want to champion.Today, India is trying to change that, following in the footsteps of countries like Vietnam who desperately want to change the health of their country’s workforce and children.
Women, Privacy, Education and Sanitation: Open Defecation Can Be Dangerous.
In much of the developing world where open defecation is the only option, women are vulnerable to rape. In schools, where toilets are dysfunctional or non-existent, girls drop out as soon they start menstruating. Many girls throughout the world drop out of school around the age of 13, when they start their period, because of a lack of toilets and privacy.
Open defecation may happen in India's villages more often, but it has a deeper impact on the water supply in India's slums.
Organizations like Water Aid work to provide toilets in the slums of cities like New Delhi. But they are a small fraction of what is necessary to maintain a healthy water supply and sanitary living conditions.
Water is often supplied by the government for one hour every morning causing a mad rush to the taps.
In the village of Peepli Kheera, population around 800 people, there is only one toilet which is kept under lock and key. The entire community defecates outside. Men in the fields on one side of the village, women on the other.
About half of Indians defecate outside without using toilets. The result is that children pick up parasites and chronic infections that impair the ability of the intestines to absorb nutrients — and 117,000 Indian children die each year from diarrhea, according to Unicef.
A Place to Go
Accessing a toilet is only part of the problem in most places in the world.
Upkeep and emptying of pit toilets is difficult to maintain.
Public sanitation system, such as plumbing, are almost unheard of in most of the developing world.
Haiti’s Hurdle: Natural Disasters, Open Defecation and Cholera
In 2016, Haiti suffered yet another natural disaster. Hurricane Matthew revealed what happens when natural disasters combine with poor sanitation and cholera — people die quickly, spreading disease as they flee.
The storm killed an estimated 1600 people, but cholera, kept alive by open defecation in the slums and countryside, continues to haunt Haiti.
A resurgence of cholera, which first appeared after the 2010 earthquake, has appeared in the form of outbreaks all over the hurricane-effected areas. Most are caused by direct contact with infected water and poor sanitation. A cholera vaccination has been provided by the government but is only around 50 percent effective, giving many Haitians a false feeling of invincibility.