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Innovations in Poverty Eradication in India
Poverty has been at the forefront of India’s issues for an incredible amount of time. Based on the Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) from Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, about 55% of Indians were poor in 2005-06. However, despite this grim reality, there have been various innovations in poverty eradication in India. The Indian government, with help from nonprofits, has come a long way in improving the welfare of the people. The number of people in poverty decreased from 630 million poor people to 360 million.

Nonprofits Making a Difference

The Akshaya Patra Foundation is a not-for-profit NGO that works with the Indian government to provide poor children meals during school. Its goal is to keep children both nourished and wanting to go to school. Since 2000, it has grown into the largest nonprofit lunch serving organization in the world. Akshaya Patra provides food every day to over 1.8 million children. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it has provided poor and at-risk people with almost 60 million meals and 760,000 grocery kits.

Another great organization helping in the fight against poverty is SOS Children’s Villages, with over 500 SOS Children’s Villages and 400 SOS Youth Facilities in more than 133 countries around the world. SOS Children’s Villages is a nonprofit that has dedicated itself to providing children with safe, loving environments with better access to food, education and health. In India, SOS Children’s Villages cares for over 25,000 children across 22 states, ensuring stability and better situations for those in need.

Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) is an international organization dedicated to researching effective ways to reduce poverty around the world and help create programs and policies that better alleviate these issues. IPA conducts randomized evaluations to find accurate insights into the causes of poverty. It then utilizes its findings to help governments and other institutions create more effective programs. Through its extensive network of world-class university researchers, IPA has “…designed and evaluated more than 550 potential solutions to poverty problems…” with over 280 more evaluations in progress.

The Work of the Indian Government

Additionally, the Indian government has initiated multiple programs and policies to help reduce poverty. India is the first country to make corporate social responsibility mandatory in the world. This ensures that big companies like Mahindra use their resources to help the poor. The government also has an important green initiative, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, or “Clean India,” that ensures the health of the environment and people improves. This initiative focuses on increasing sanitation accessibility and standards in India, with the building of over 100 million toilets since October 2014.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Indian government has proved its dedication to upholding these standards. It issued a three-month-long campaign, Samudayik Shauchalaya Abhiyan (SSA), from June 15, 2020, to September 15, 2020, to emphasize the construction of Community Sanitary Complexes (CSCs) in villages. This campaign supports the influx of migrant workers/merchants traveling back to their home villages due to the pandemic.

Levels of poverty in India have improved over the years, but the country and nonprofits need to do more work. Fortunately, there are many institutions and programs in place continuing innovations in poverty eradication in India.

Saayom Ghosh
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation and Hygiene in India
There is a restricted amount of water, sanitation and hygiene in India on a daily basis. Therefore, the lack of these resources leads to disease and death.

Diseases, Defecation and Lack of Sanitation Facilities

India is one of the world’s most heavily populated countries with more than half residing in suburban neighborhoods. Due to the country’s vast population growth and its limited accessibility to water, people have limited access to sanitation and hygiene in India.

  • Nearly half of Indians defecate into the environment, which pollutes water and leads to the number one cause of diarrhea-associated deaths in children. Yearly, 117,000 children younger than five pass away due to diarrhea as a result of unsanitary environments and contaminated water.
  • Research indicates that a little over half of India’s population washes their hands after defecation. Only 38 percent of people wash their hands before eating and as little as 30 percent wash their hands prior to handling food. Young children are most susceptible to diarrhoeal diseases and respiratory infections; yet, using soap to wash hands can reduce the likelihood of contracting these illnesses.
  • Nearly 600 million people do not use toilets, and as a result, their waste enters the environment which leads to a higher likelihood of water contamination and diarrhea. Children who suffer from diarrhea are more susceptible to malnutrition and other illnesses, such as pneumonia. Malnutrition afflicts nearly 50 percent of children.
  • Nearly 10 percent of countryside households discard waste properly, while people leave more than half of the waste out in the environment or put it into the trash. As little as six percent of children under the age of five use sanitation facilities.
  • For adolescent females, it is necessary to provide the essential facilities, products and education to allow for proper menstrual hygiene. Many girls are likely to not attend school due to the lack of seclusion in the sanitation facilities. Other times, females feel discomfort when there is no facility available at home.

The Water Crisis

Nearly 200,000 Indians pass away each year as a result of insufficient accessibility to consumable water, while 600 million people are water-stressed due to the limited availability of 1,700 cubic meters of water yearly.

Research published in June 2018 predicts that India will undergo an acute lack of availability to water within two decades. The report approximates that the need for water will duplicate the obtainable supply by 2030.

The Government’s Partnerships to End Open Defecation and Increase Sanitation Efforts

In 2014, India’s Prime Minister, Narenda Modi, began advocating to enhance cleanliness efforts by October 2019. Since he announced this objective, there has been significant progress in making clean water and hygiene amenities available.

In 2014, the amount of people living in agricultural areas who defecate openly has decreased from 550 million to 320 million. Overall, clean drinking water and proper sewage disposal have improved from 39 percent in October 2014 to over 90 percent in August 2018.

UNICEF Action endorses the federal and local governments in providing water, sanitation and hygiene in India. UNICEF’s Child’s Environment Programme advocates for the government’s Total Sanitation Campaign, which has the goal to enhance the availability and utilization of sanitation facilities. The National Rural Drinking Water Programme works to implement clean water to each and every family in India; the Child’s Environment program collaborates with Integrated Child Development Services to ensure that proper hygiene facilities are present in schools.

USAID collaborates with India’s government to implement healthful towns by growing access to safe water and cleanliness. Together, USAID and the Government of India assess and distinguish various models to enable consumable water and toilets, which they can put into effect for various localities.

In order to eliminate defecation by 2019, India began the five-year Swachh Bharat (Clean India) Mission to cease open defecation. USAID promotes the commission by educating others about these matters and initiating action from the people and government officials.

The overall goal of USAID is to implement techniques to have safe, clean water access that is inexpensive. The organization also collaborates with civilians to compose sanitation facilities as well as encouraging hand washing along with refraining from defecating in the environment.

In 2017, 300,000 citizens had access to water, sanitation and hygiene in their homes. As a result of the community efforts, 25,000 communities have stopped defecating in the environment, while 175,000 people are able to obtain clean, consumable water.

– Diana Dopheide

Photo: Flickr

Effects of Open Defecation in IndiaThe extent of open defecation in India presents a major health and safety issue. Worldwide, there are one billion people who do not have a toilet, and Indians make up 60 percent of this number. Of this 60 percent, the majority comes from rural areas. Activists and the government have advocated for the building of shared community toilets as a solution to the problem, but ingrained social norms and attitudes stop people from using them.

The government launched the Swachh Bharat Mission last year, which promises 110 million toilets built in the next five years in an effort to make India an “open defecation free country.” In an added bonus, the waste collected would be converted to fertilizer and other forms of energy. Lauded as a “sacred mission” that would coincide with the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth, this mission has gained approval from almost all sections of the government and society.

But most people from rural areas have shown an unwillingness to discontinue their habits of open defecation even if they are given toilets. Many people who already have toilets in their house forgo its use in favor of defecating in the open. In 40 percent of households that had a toilet, at least one member chose not to use it at all. They believe that defecating in the open is more natural and healthy, and that building a latrine in the house brings impurity to it. The two-thousand-year-old Hindu text, called the “Laws of Manu,” encourages open defecation.

Community toilets also have the added problem of being—by nature—shared, and people from different castes, religions and economic status are not willing to use the same toilet, even if they come from the same village.

However, open defecation practices remain a huge health and safety risk, and issues will only increase as India’s population grows. There have been hundreds of cases of women being raped as they leave their homes after dark. In one notorious case, two women from Utter Pradesh were raped, murdered and hung on trees after they were defecating in an open field.

India’s dense population also means that even in rural areas, human feces are not easily kept away from fields, wells and food. Bacteria and worms in feces are often accidentally ingested. This results in a range of health problems from diarrhea to enteropathy, a chronic sickness that prevents the absorption of calories and nutrients. Many specialists believe that the problems open defecation causes are the reason 50 percent of Indian children are malnourished.

A government study comparing Muslim and Hindu households supports these conjectures. The study found that 25 percent fewer Muslim families defecated in the open and also had lower child mortality rates than Hindu families—even though Muslims in India are poorer and less educated than their Hindu counterparts. In the few areas where more Muslims defecated in the open than Hindus, they had higher child mortality rates.

Social norms and habits need to be changed if open defecation is to be successfully fought. Simply building more toilets will not do the job. The government has already taken some steps to educate people about the dangers of open defecation and reward those who use latrines. In Haryana for instance, it launched the “No Toilet, No Bride” campaign that urged women to only marry men whose home had a toilet.

– Radhika Singh

Sources: Scroll, Government of India, The Economist, BBC,
Photo: Flickr