World Bank Study: 53% of Indian households defecate in the open

As per a recent paper/ report titled ‘Effects of Early-Life Exposure to Sanitation on Childhood Cognitive Skills’ released by the World Bank on the eve of the first ever UN World Toilet Day: Owing to absence of toilet or latrine facilities which an important contributors to malnutrition, 53% of Indian households defecate in the open.
At present, nearly 2.5 billion people worldwide lack access to toilets, around 1 billion practice open defecation and more than 600 million in India openly defecate.
The study suggests that:

  • Low-cost rural sanitation strategies viz India’s Total Sanitation Campaign can support children’s cognitive development
  • Open defecation (i.e. going outside without using a toilet or latrine) is an important threat to the human capital of developing countries
  • A program available to nations where sanitation development capacity is low could better the average cognitive skills.

Earlier studies have found that:

  • Children exposed to more fecal germs don’t grow as tall compared to children with less exposure.
  • Physical height is an important economic variable reflecting health and human capital.
  • Inadequate sanitation a crucial contributor to malnutrition, especially in India

Children in India are shorter (around 0.7 cm on average) than children in counterpart in Sub-Saharan Africa who are poorer, on average, a paradox called “the Asian enigma”.



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