Written for The Hunger Project – Australia
Unclean water supplies and poor sanitation are still amongst the biggest threats to many peoples’ health in developing regions. With up to 950 million people worldwide still practicing open defecation and up to 2.5 billion people living without adequate sanitation, vast improvements are yet to be made.
In India, 80% of disease in rural areas can be traced back to contaminated water and poor sanitation. The government has responded by promising to provide 60 million homes with sanitary toilets by 2019. However, past attempts to improve sanitation in affected areas, has taught us that simply providing people with sanitary facilities (such as toilets) is not effective in changing deeply ingrained practices (such as open defecation).
The best way to initiate sustainable change is to run community-led programs, where village leaders and volunteers are taught to; research what their community needs, understand the dangers of poor sanitation and integrate new systems within their villages from the ground level. Village leaders learn how to approach local governments and to work with them toward providing the infrastructure necessary to make the improvements. They are simultaneously trained to lead educational programs within their communities, that change belief systems and practices to ensure the new facilities are assimilated successfully.
Through training with The Hunger Project, our village partners learn that clean water and sanitary practices are essential to their survival and they become proactive in implementing the necessary changes themselves. They are empowered to ensure their human rights are being met and in response they learn to;
Install water tanks and pumps that provide clean water to families
Develop new water sources and conservation practices
Build and maintain bathrooms
Educate their community about sanitation and associated health benefits