Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Brahmapur, July 21:
In an attempt to end open defecation in 20 villages in Hinjilicut and Sheragada blocks of Odisha’s Ganjam district by the end of 2014, the district administration, in association with the UNICEF and United Artists Association, a local NGO, has signed a six-month agreement to work on a persuasive campaign among local people to abandon such unhealthy practices through ‘a community driven approach’.
Speaking at an inaugural meeting of block-level sarpanch and panchayat executive officers of Hinjilicut block, Hinjilicut BDO Manoj Kumar Swain said the Cyclone Phailin and subsequent floods highlighted the great importance of addressing the issue of open defecation in Ganjam district.
“Although we were able to control the spread of disease at that time, we need to find a more sustainable and long-term solution to the sanitation situation,” he pointed out.
In her address, Sunetra Lala, water, sanitation and hygiene officer, UNICEF Odisha said, “Open defecation is a critical public health issue in the state. Odisha has one of the highest infant mortality rates in India with diarrhoea being a significant contributing factor. The access and use of toilets together with hygiene practices such as hand washing are important in order to reduce child deaths in the state.”
Underscoring the importance of a community-led approach to end open defecation, Mangaraj Panda, general secretary of United Artists Association said the motivation of the community is the most important step towards achieving a complete end to open defecation practices. Each and every person in the community not only needs to realize the need for independent household latrines but should also be willing to build one and use it regularly.
As per the agreement, UNICEF will provide technical support to the district and block administration to carry forward the community driven sanitation activities in the selected villages. It will also support capacity development for implementation of the sanitation programme in the block.
Besides, the United Artists Association will assist in the implementation of the sanitation activities in the selected villages.
The practice of open defecation has a drastic effect on child survival and development.
As per the statistics of the UNICEF and World Health Organisation (WHO), nearly 88 percent of deaths due to diarrhoea can be directly attributed to unsafe water, poor sanitation and inadequate hygiene. The effects of open defecation and poor sanitation adversely affect nutrition, development, economy, dignity and safety of women.
According to Census 2011, against a national average of 69.3 percent, 85.9 percent households in rural Odisha do not have a latrine.
In rural areas of Ganjam, 80.9 percent of over 6 lakh households still practice open defecation.