New Delhi: The
United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) Tuesday stressed the
urgent need for India, the first among 12 countries where open
defecation takes place, to check and curb the practice and reduce
the high rate of water-borne disease in rural communities.
According to the recently released Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP)
by World Health Organisation (WHO) and Unicef, about 626 million
people or nearly 51 percent of the population in India still
defecate in the open.
"The message of hygiene and sanitation needs more priority,
particularly in rural areas. Efforts to curb the habit of open
defecation should be instilled among the common man, as it is a
major public health concern," said Unicef-India water and
sanitation specialist Aidan Cronin.
According to the JMP, India ranks first among the 12 countries
which practise open defecation, followed by Indonesia, Pakistan,
Ethiopia, Nigeria, Sudan, Nepal, China, Niger, Burkina Faso,
Mozambique and Cambodia.
"It is a major public health concern. This habit of the countrymen
makes people prone to water-borne diseases. Due to open
defecation, various sources of water get contaminated. This water
consumed by people can result in various illnesses like diarrhoea
and pneumonia," Cronin added.
"We are also trying to get down the number of people defecating in
the open by talking to people in rural areas, particularly
children, and advocating the use of toilets," he added.