Behavioral change in sanitation practices will lead to lasting social development
By Kulsum Mustafa
October 24, 2009
The author is a senior journalist and Secretary-General of Media Nest. She is a fellow of Citizen News Service (CNS) Writers’ Bureau. Website: www.citizen-news.org
"One of the biggest challenges before us is to bring about sustained behavioral change in the mindset of people towards sanitation. It is important that the man on the street understands that a clean environment will lead to a much healthier individual and society," said Mr Amit Mehrotra, UNICEF water, environment and sanitation (WES) specialist. Mr Mehrotra was addressing the media at the bi-monthly Media for Children, jointly organized by Media Nest and UNICEF at UP Press Club in Lucknow.
Listing the challenges in Uttar Pradesh's rural sanitation programme Mr Mehrotra said that the biggest challenge is to ensure quality construction of proper toilets in the rural areas followed by proper maintenance system.
"Study done by UNICEF has shown that 72 per cent toilets constructed in the villages are below standards. As a rule there should be one train mason for construction of these toilets but fact is that there are a total of just 16 per cent trained masons in UP villages, this is grossly inadequate" he said. Improper constructed toilets stink, fail to function and are generally abandoned, serving as garbage dumps.
Dwelling on the great need for promoting personal hygiene Mr. Mehrotra said that just the simple act of washing one’s hand after going to the toilet will lead to a healthier individual. "Hand-washing with soap after defecation will reduce diarrhea deaths of children by 40 per cent," he said. This shows how important it is to train children in adopting healthier sanitation practices.
"One gram human excreta carries 100,000,000 viruses, so you can imagine the virus which abound in our society where 65 per cent people are defecating in the open," said Mr Mehrotra.
"Construction of toilets may not be a rocket science but it is a science never the less and it must be respected and practiced by using only trained masons for making the toilets defect- proof," he said.
Mr YD Mathur, advisor Sulabh International, national expert on sanitation who was the second resource person for the programme said that there are three points that will take the sanitation programme further, especially in the rural areas.
"Quality control of the construction of toilets by trained masons, use of pour flush instead of tank fill system and last but not the least sanitation motivators are the basics of a sound sanitation system," said Mr Mathura as he addressed the media persons.
He said sanitation motivators can play a very vital role as centuries of behavioral pattern cannot be changed overnight.
Taking off from this point Mr Mehrotra said that since the past few months ASHAs (Accredited Social Health Activists) are being trained by UNICEF to work as motivators. He said in Lalitpur over 700 ASHAs have taken on this additional responsibility of motivators. Mr Mehrotra said soon the other districts of the state will also be trained.
The resource persons urged media to do its bit in carrying forward the great need for hygiene in our life. This will mean less people falling sick.
Ms Kulsum Talha, secretary general, Media Nest, while thanking the experts said that a vast and important topic like sanitation can not be explained in just an hour but she said that these experts can be contacted for more details for writing in-depth stories.
"Media Nest is an organization which is by the journalists, for the journalist and of the journalists and these sessions are aimed at sensitizing journalists on development issues."
Posted on: October 24, 2009 05:27 PM IST