Children wash their hands at an ECD center
in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.
Poor sanitation systems
are among the leading causes of the spread of preventable diseases in developing
nations. ChildFund works in some of the world's most poverty-stricken countries
to provide children in need and their families with access to improved
sanitation systems, including India.
Although substantial gains have been made in increasing access to improved
sanitation in India and other countries, many families still lack these
facilities. To address the urgent problem of poor sanitation in India,
the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has launched a new campaign to raise
awareness of this important issue.
Reinventing the Toilet for Indians in Poverty
in partnership with India's Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and
Technology, and the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council, the
foundation has launched the Reinvent the Toilet initiative. This collaborative
endeavor aims to improve the health of families living in poverty across India
innovation in sanitation technology. A primary objective of the project is
to develop cost-effective, sustainable solutions to inadequate sanitation
systems in both rural and urban areas, with an emphasis on helping
poverty-stricken families have access to access improved sanitation.
2011, approximately 615 million people lacked access to adequate sanitation
systems in their communities and were forced to defecate openly. Not only is
this practice an indignity, it also presents a major threat to human health.
Millions of tons of sludge and fecal matter are dredged from open-air pits,
which leads to a substantial health hazard for communities without the means to
safely dispose of this waste. In fact, according to UNICEF, poor sanitation in India
is partially responsible for the stunting of more than 65 million children.
Leveraging Technology to Improve Sanitation in India
As serious as India's sanitation
problems are, there is hope. According to Deloitte, India currently ranks fourth
in terms of its manufacturing competitiveness. The country's potential strength
in industrial design and manufacturing could put India in an ideal position to
tackle its sanitation crisis through innovation.
"We have the capacity to
emerge as the second best destination for manufacturing in the world in terms of
its strength in design and technology, resource base, rich pool of young
talented people and entrepreneurial spirit by 2020," says
Ajay Shankar, member secretary of the National Manufacturing Competitiveness
One of the key challenges facing India and other countries
where poor sanitation remains a serious problem is combining the functionality
that toilets need to reduce the spread of infectious diseases while remaining
cost-effective enough to be provided to these countries' poorest communities.
For example, toilets commonly found in developed nations are
largely impractical in developing countries due to the large volumes of water
required. Also, a lack of waste disposal systems make designing a
next-generation toilet a considerable challenge.
ChildFund has worked in India since 1951, and a key part of our work in the
country focuses on early childhood development. Although this mainly involves
supporting the cognitive, social and physical development of children in need,
our ECD centers also provide
parents with training on crucial topics such as hygiene and sanitation. Many
of our ECD centers are located in India's poorest communities, making them vital
resources for families affected by sanitation issues and a range of other
challenges, including a
lack of access to health care and nutritious food.
Nov. 19 is World Toilet Day, and
as we approach that date, keep in mind how you can help children live healthier
lives and fulfill their potential.
One of the best ways you can help a
child living in poverty and suffering from poor sanitation in India is by becoming a child sponsor. For just $28
per month, you can ensure that a child has everything he or she needs to
survive, including food, clean drinking water, health care and access to
improved sanitation systems. Your support will make a world of difference, so
please consider sponsoring a child today.