Down to Earth
Ethiopia pushes hygiene
Ethiopia has managed to curb open defecation at the fastest rate in the world. highlights what India, which has the highest number of people defecating in the open, can learn from the poorest country
IN ETHIOPIA, seven in every 10 people use toilets instead of defecating in the open. While this may not sound like much of an achievement, to grasp the true import of the statistics one has to consider that some 25 years ago, less than one in every 10 Ethiopians used toilets. The African country, in fact globally, registered the maximum reduction in the proportion of the population defecating in the open between 1990 and 2015, as per the Joint Monitoring report of 2015 by the World Health Organization (who) and Unicef.
The extent of the achievement becomes even clearer when one compares the figures with India, whose per-capita gdp is four times that of Ethiopia. In 1990, less than three in every 10 people in India used toilets. Despite several nationwide campaigns and celebrity endorsements to create awareness about sanitation, only six in every 10 Indians use toilets.
So how did Ethiopia, one of the poorest countries in the world, achieve the results? Ethiopia’s success lies in the fact that it recognises sanitation as a health problem. Unlike in India where sanitation and drinking water are under one ministry, Ethiopia has put sanitation under the health ministry. In fact, the Ethiopian government’s Health Extension Program, started in 2003, is responsible for rolling out key sanitation interventions in rural areas, where 85 per cent of the country resides. Of the 16 broad services offered under the scheme, seven cover hygiene and environmental sanitation, such as excreta disposal, solid and liquid waste disposal, water quality control and personal hygiene. Under it, two women health workers are employed in every kebele (the smallest administrative unit of Ethiopia, similar to a ward in India) to sensitise families about sanitation and to encourage them to build toilets.
Its Trachoma Prevention Program is another example of how integrating sanita-