Sangita Vyas’ research focuses on the causes and consequences of child health and well-being in India. She is broadly interested in the politics and economics of inequality and making services work in India.
In this TEDxWalledCity2015 event, she shares the unheared and little understood reality of open defecation in India.
Sangita Vyas – TEDx Talk Transcript
India has a lot to be proud of: Its democratic tradition, its diversity, its contributions in art, architecture, and science, and yoga. But images like this one taint India’s reputation.
So why is this image associated with India?
Well, if this circle represents all of the open defecation that happens in the world, this is the fraction that happens in India. And this is the fraction that happens only in rural India.
65% of rural Indians defecate in the open. So what that means is that most of the open defecation that happens in the world happens in rural India and most rural Indians defecate in the open.
Every day 500 million people in villages in India go in the fields rather than use a toilet or a latrine. That’s bigger than the population of the United States. And this is a really important issue because open defecation is really bad for child health.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of children die in India because of exposure to the bacteria in feces. And those that survive are physically and cognitively stunted because of that exposure. This lives with them for the rest of their lives.
So why do so many people in India defecate in the open?
If it’s such a bad problem, if it’s so widespread and it’s so poor for child health, why does it persist? That’s the question that my colleagues and I sought to answer when we started our SQUAT survey two years ago, a survey of sanitation quality, use, access, and trends.