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Mahatma Must Be Smiling: An Invaluable Gift from Swachh Bharat Abhiyan to Children

impact of Swachh Bharat on health of Children

Delivering his first Independence Day speech, PM Narendra Modi from the ramparts of Red Fort made a solemn pledge to make India Open defecation free by 2nd October 2019 to coincide with 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. Many doubted whether India can pull of this herculean feat. But the rest as they say is history.

As the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan achieved 100% sanitation coverage from the mere 38% in 2014, it has accomplished various goals along the way. It has brought dignity to the lives of women, toilets and other efforts of sanitation have made India a better place for tourism, life of commoners eased.

Importantly, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has ensuring the health of children in many ways thereby contributing to build a strong and healthy India, which is the best one can give to the future generation.

Here are specific instances which show the impact of Swachh Bharat on health of Children.

The World Health organisation in a report in 2018 reported that Swachh Bharat Mission would have averted 3 lakh deaths which would occurred due to diarrheal disease and protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) since its launch in October 2014. The report also said there has been a 92% decrease in diarrheal deaths caused due to unsafe sanitation dropping from 1.4 lakh in 2014 to just 11,000 in 2018. Th incidences of diarrhoea itself has seen a remarkable decrease from 199 million in 2014 to 15 million in 2018.  The report also revealed that if all sanitation services were used, the initiative could result in over 14 million more years of healthy life in the period measured, with the benefits accruing yearly thereafter.

Source: WHO

A study conducted by the Economic survey 2019 also revealed how districts with higher coverage of Individual Household Latrines (IHHL) had significantly lower cases of Diarrhoea and malaria for children under the age of 5 and lower cases of still birth and low birth weight compared to districts with lower IHHL coverage. More significant in impact is that, even in districts with low IHHL, there has been a significant decrease in cases of diarrhoea, malaria, still birth and low birth weight after the implementation of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.

Source: Economic Survey 2019

A survey conducted by Centre for policy Research (CPR) In Madhya Pradesh’s Sehore district revealed that no diarrhoeal deaths were reported between 2014 and 2016 in the 12 ODF villages in the district but more than 300 cases of diarrhoea and 22 deaths were reported within a similar timeline across 17 non-ODF villages in the district. Diarrhoea cases had decreased by over 80% in ODF villages after toilets were built.

A study by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation covering 4000 households across Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Karnataka revealed that villages without ODF status had 46% more cases of Diarrhoea compared to villages with ODF status. It was observed in the Report that health and Nutrition indicators of both mother and child had significantly improved in the ODF villages. The Foundation had also recently awarded Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the prestigious Global Goalkeepers Award for his Leadership in promoting Swachh Bhaarat Abhiyan. The Goalkeeper awards felicitate changemakers around the world for their contributions toward meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which the UN General Assembly set in 2015 for the year 2030.

All These studies show that there is a clear relation between progress on sanitation coverage and health gains.  By achieving 100% open defection free India on October 2nd, 2019 India has not only achieved well ahead of time, Sustainable Development Goal 6.2 which states that  “By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all, and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations” but India is also well on track to achieve SDG 3.3 which aims to end epidemics of all water born communicable diseases like cholera, diarrhoea etc.

Thus, a toilet in the corner of the house does not just ensure ease of life but assures healthy tomorrows for the generations to come. What would be a better gift than this to Mahatma Gandhi and to the children of India?

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