Pushing toilet revolution to next stage

Asjadul Kibria | Published: November 23, 2018 21:49:25 | Updated: November 23, 2018 21:50:56


Bangladesh is highly appreciated for bringing down the use of open space toilets closer to zero. While open defecation is largely visible in India, the opposite is true for Bangladesh.  Around 40 per cent of the Indian population either have no toilet facility at home or they still practice open defecation. In Bangladesh, only around 2.0 per cent of the total households don't have access to either sealed or open toilets.

In fact, Bangladesh reduced the open defecation sharply within two decades -an amazing feat by any standard. In the early '90s the rate of open defection was 30 per cent in Bangladesh which came down to 4.50 per cent in 2010 and further declined to 1.80 per cent in 2017. At the same time, use of sanitary latrines in urban area and pit latrines in rural area increased. A good number of researchers from different countries including India have visited Bangladesh in the past decade to observe the development and learn about the success. They have termed it a 'toilet revolution' and also called for replication in India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Pakistan  and some other countries suffering from open defecation.  According to the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the first five countries account for 75 per cent of the world's open defecation causing infectious diseases and also serious health and environmental hazards.

At present, according to Labour Force Survey 2016-17, some 46.0 per cent of the households across the country use sanitary toilets, while 37.0 per cent use pit latrines and 15.2 per cent households use open latrine and the rest 1.8 per cent have no toilet facility of their own. Though there are some variations in urban and rural areas of toilet facilities, one thing is clear that people in Bangladesh want at least a minimum toilet facility.   Supported by government, non-government, private and community initiatives a remarkable success could be achieved in the area.

Nevertheless, a number of challenges are there to sustain the achievement. Lack of adequate and healthy toilets in workplaces, factories, educational institutes, hospitals,   community spaces and public places (i.e. bus and train stations and shopping centres) becomes a very big health concern.

There is no denying the fact that students in most of the schools, colleges and universities are denied access to clean and hygienic toilets. A large number of offices also fail to provide such facilities to employees in Dhaka and other places in the country. The situation in garments and other factories is worse albeit there are a few exceptions.

As a results students, employees and workers have to contain the calls of nature. To avoid urinating, many skip drinking of water in work places.  Some have to restrain urinating as long as possible due to lack of adequate toilet. All these are very damaging to kidney which is a crucial organ of human body. Though it is a very resilient organ, in the long-run kidney failure is unavoidable due to continuous restraint in urinating.

Lack of public toilets is another serious problem. Though a few well designed public toilets have been introduced in Dhaka, the number is inadequate. Others are vey unhygienic and not accessible to a man having minimum sense of cleanness.  While men resort to urinating in the open, women silently suffer in the absence of toilets.

Thus, setting up of an adequate number of hygienic toilets in work and public places become a very big challenge for the country.  It is not only a basic human right, but also a pre-condition for a healthy nation.  Considerable investment with some changes in behaviour and attitude can make a difference within a short period of time.

asjadulk@gmail.com

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