Nearly five years after launching the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, a target has been made to make the urban areas of India open defecation free (ODF) by October 02.
According to a study by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a large number of toilets were constructed in the last five years due to the Centre’s Clean India Mission. Now people need to change their habit to use them. This is also being reviewed internationally.
As per the study’s findings conducted to assess the impact of targeted behavioural intervention to encourage toilet use, Odisha (66 villages were surveyed) had the maximum percentage of individuals still not using toilets at 23% compared to Bihar (92 villages) that had only 10%.
Of the households surveyed in Karnataka (120 villages) and Gujarat (94 villages), 13% did not use toilets in Gujarat and 5% in Karnataka.
Lack of toilet facilities near the fields where most men and women work during the day (37%), convenience of open defecation out of habit (30%) and lack of water supply (25%) were among the reasons cited for not using toilets.
“Toilets have been built, but we found that several misconceptions and measures have to be addressed to ensure that they are used. We found that behavioural intervention initiated by our teams in addressing community fears and misconceptions had increased the usage of toilets in areas where we worked,” said Bethany Caruso of Atlanta-based Emory University, who was part of the team which visited Odisha.
Caruso’s team found that intervention measures such as community meetings and activities, led to a 9% increase in latrine use among women than men.
Similarly, in Bihar, women were given preference for using toilets as toilet use is associated with preserving the dignity and safety of women. Overall open defecation rate among men was higher (12.23%) as compared to that of females (9.22%).
Interestingly, in Karnataka and Gujarat, the study found that while there was no major difference in latrine use between men and women due to the intervention of the teams that addressed the communities, latrine use increased by 3.95% for women and 5.27% for men across all villages in Karnataka and by 5.5% for men and 6.6% for men across all villages.