We are a developing nation and sanitation continues to be a major issue for the community. A lack of sanitation and hygiene contributes to a range of health and environmental problems. So Sanitation, as we all know, is an extremely important topic for our country. From toilets for the girl child, to providing basic health facilities to the deep rural population of India – various Sanitation needs are now on the top of the list of concerns for us as a nation.
The consumption of dirty and contaminated water in any form can directly result in a multitude of diseases like Diarrhoea and Malaria. A lack of knowledge of basic hygiene practices can prove to be lethal, especially in young children.
Approximately 1.5 million children die from diarrhoeal diseases every year worldwide according to WHO. The data clearly show that children cannot be healthy without access to adequate sanitation and a safe water supply.
Hygiene poses another huge and grave health challenge, not only in India, but globally. Despite of this huge danger, hygiene has not been prioritized on the international development agenda. Also, despite the fact that hand washing with soap could save 300,000 people annually, enough people are not aware of the benefits even today!
Many households, for example, have no other option than to store water before use. Even if the original source of the water is safe, the water is frequently contaminated by unhygienic conditions and practices in the home. In India, hand washing and menstrual hygiene facilities along with toilets are often not available in schools, thereby deterring attendance, particularly for adolescent girls.
Unhygienic habits like not washing hands properly, also leads to various ailments that can be life threatening if not attended to properly.
It has also been revealed in various studies that access to clean water and proper sanitation facilities can not solely lead to a disease free community – it has to be coupled with healthy habits to result in a safe environment.
This hygienic behaviour mainly consists of washing hands properly with soap because it significantly reduce the incidence of diarrhoea, which is the second biggest cause of death amongst children under five years old. In fact, recent studies suggest that regular hand-washing with soap at critical times can reduce the number of diarrhoea bouts by almost 50 per cent.
|WASH initiative by Coca Cola|
So, it comes as a much welcomed news that TERI University and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in association with Coca Cola and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) have launched the ‘Strengthening Water and Sanitation in Urban Settings” initiative in Kolkata.
This program – in short, WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is aimed to reach 50,000 beneficiaries in low-income settlements and over 300 professionals through WASH governance studies. It will also reach out to 2,500 students through 20 municipal schools across India, marking a huge step forward in the national Sanitation and Hygiene movement.
Starting the initiative in the slums of Kolkata and Chennai, the WASH Program will make a huge difference to the cause of spreading general awareness about sanitation and hygiene in the low-income settlement of the society, and will also help in developing and implementing of a set of hygienic habits and proper sanitation for this community.
In short, WASH will ensure the development and implementation of participatory intervention strategies in selected urban areas that engage all potential stakeholders and facilitate adoption of measures to reduce WASH-related risks, trigger behavioural changes, and support long-term participatory interaction among stakeholders. Sounds promising, right?
I am extremely impressed with the WASH program and its approach because it is a one of a kind association which has never been done before that will lead to the healthy development of low-income settlements in the area.
I am hopeful that WASH will be a big aide in providing drinking water, sanitation and hygiene as preventative medicine for those who need it the most. This initiative by Coca Cola, TERI and USAID is taking speed rapidly, and is all set to make improvements in the lives of billions of people in the country. I am supporting them, are you? Read more about the initiative and let’s support it in whatever little way we can.
Here’s to the dream of a healthy India!