53 Percent Of India’s Households Defecate In Open, Says World Bank



WASHINGTON- With over 600 millionpeople in India or 53percent of Indian householdsdefecating in theopen, absence of toiletor latrine is one of theimportant contributorsto malnutrition, a WorldBank report has said.The report, releasedon the eve of the firstever UN World ToiletDay, said access to improvedsanitation canincrease cognition among children.Currently, more than 2.5 billionpeople worldwide lack access to toilets,one billion people practice opendefecation.“Our research showed that sixyear-olds who had been exposed toIndia’s sanitation programme duringtheir first year of life were morelikely to recognise letters and simplenumbers on learning tests than thosewho were not,” said Dean Spears,lead author of the paper ‘Effects ofEarly – Life Exposure to Sanitationon Childhood Cognitive Skills.’The paper studies the effectson childhood cognitive achievementof early life exposure to India’s TotalSanitation Campaign, a nationalscale government programme thatencouraged local governments tobuild and promote use of inexpensivepit latrines.“This is important news – thestudy suggests that low-cost ruralsanitation strategies such as India’sTotal Sanitation Campaign can supportchildren’s cognitive development,”Ms. Spears said. The results also suggest that opendefecation is an important threat to thehuman capital of developing countriesand that a program accessible to countrieswhere sanitation development capacity islower could improve average cognitiveskills.“Open defecation lies at the root ofmany development challenges, as poorsanitation and lack of access to toiletsimpact public health, education, and theenvironment,” said Jaehyang So, Managerof the World Bank’s Water and SanitationProject.A World Bank working paper releasedearlier this year found that childrenexposed to more faecal germs don’t growas tall as other children with less exposure.Studies have shown physical heightis an important economic variable reflectinghealth and human capital.However, differences in averageheight across developing countries arenot well explained by differences inwealth, according to the report.In particular, children in India areshorter, on average, than children in Africawho are poorer, on average, a paradoxcalled “the Asian enigma,” which has receivedmuch attention from economists.Studies indicate a 5 year-old girl in Indiato be around 0.7 cm shorter than hercounterpart in Sub-Saharan Africa.“Within the triad of causes, food,care and environment, these papers provideadditional evidence that inadequatesanitation is one of the important contributorsto malnutrition, particularly inIndia,” said Bert Voetberg, Acting SectorManager, South Asia Health, Nutritionand Population.