U.N. Vows to Eliminate Open Defecation by 2025

Thursday, May 29, 2014

UNITED NATIONS, May 28 2014 (IPS) – At the height of his election campaign last October, Narendra Modi, India’s Hindu nationalist leader, briefly set aside his spiritual aspirations when he told a surprised audience that economic development should take precedence over religion.

“Toilets before temples,” pleaded Modi, the newly-elected prime minister of India, a country which has been in the throes of a perpetual sanitation crisis, and where open defecation is an all-too-common sight in villages and urban slums.

As chief minister of the state of Gujarat, Modi oversaw the installation of some 76,000 lavatories in schools “so that more girls could study,” according to an article in the Economist last month.

As if taking its cue from Modi, or by happy coincidence, the United Nations Wednesday formally launched a global campaign to help improve access to toilets for the 2.5 billion people without basic level sanitation.

“It is time to talk about open defecation,” said U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, “and to discuss the facts, the consequences and the solutions.”

And it is time to talk about the many countries around the world where community members, local leaders and politicians are taking positive action to end this practice, he added.

According to the United Nations, about 82 percent of the 1.1 billion people practising open defecation live in just 10 countries: India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Sudan, Niger, Nepal, China and Mozambique.

Source: Inter Press Service (link opens in a new window)

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