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

- SUSHMITA SENGUPTA

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-

 ??  ?? PYXERAGLOB­LE.ORG In Ethiopia, sanitation services are customised to meet the needs, demands and expectatio­ns of the community
PYXERAGLOB­LE.ORG In Ethiopia, sanitation services are customised to meet the needs, demands and expectatio­ns of the community

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