By Somali K Chakrabarti
There are more cell phones than toilets in India.
It is a well known fact by now that whereas nearly 45 per cent of India’s population uses cell phones, only 31 per cent of the population has access to improved sanitation.
Poor and inadequate sanitation have been a major cause of diarrhea and infections among young children. The other fallout are malnutrition, stunting, premature deaths, wasted time and productivity, and tourism losses.
This is likely to change with PM Modi’s emphasis on cleanliness and proper sanitation facilities, and the launch of ambitious ‘Swachch Bharat Abhiyan’, to make India clean by 2019. No longer it is undignified to talk about the existing sanitation problems and the need to build toilets to end open defecation in India.
To make the mission a success, many corporate houses, NGOs, media and other agencies have joined in to address the rising need of hygiene and sanitation in India. Many initiatives have been taken up for constructing toilets in rural areas, promoting the use of toilets by running sanitation and hygiene campaigns and developing proper waste disposal and management systems.
RB India and NDTV have partnered to launch “Dettol – Banega Swachh India” and are organising a 12 hour LIVE televised CLEANATHON on 14th December, 2014, which will bring together the entire nation towards better sanitation & hygiene.
While there are systemic or behavioral issues to be tackled at the broader level, You and I as individuals, can also do our bit to make India clean and hygienic.
Much like charity begins at home, sanitation and hygiene starts with you and me.
Here are some of the areas to start with:
Taking precaution against Dengue
An alarming increase in the number of dengue cases in Mumbai pressed the panic button this year for Mumbaikars. More than 50 per cent cases were in high-rises and affluent societies.
What is more odd is that the dengue carrying mosquito does not breed only in dirty, stagnant water, but it also breeds in water that is clean enough to drink. Doctors insist that precaution is the key for avoiding dengue fever.
Some suggested precautions are:
- Do not keep water containers uncovered. Keep a lid on buckets and cover the overhead water tanks.
- Do not keeping plants indoors in the rainy season as they attract mosquitos. If you do keep potted plants in your room, ensure that water does not accumulate in the pot.
- Use mosquito-repellent patches and/or mosquito nets when sleeping.
- Don’t let trash like tubes, and coconut shells, in which water can seep in accumulate outside the house.
Not spitting at public places
Spitting, is a widespread practice in our country; you can see people spitting while walking on the roads, people spitting out of windows of buses, trucks and cars. It is one of the easiest ways of transmitting germs that can cause diseases such as tuberculosis (TB), pneumonia and influenza (including swine flu).
People should be made aware of the harmful effects of spitting and discouraged from spitting in public and children should be taught not to spit in public places.
Spitting is a punishable offence under section 116 of the Bombay Police Act, 1951. As per the Act, the offence is liable to attract a penalty of up to Rs 1,200.
Hand washing is one of the best and easy ways to prevent infection. Good hand hygiene can protect you, and your family from falling sick, or from spreading germs to others. Washing hands with soap and water can help limit the transfer of bacteria, viruses and other microbes. If soap and water are not available, use of a hand sanitizer is the next best option.
We should properly wash our hands and must also get our children into the habit of washing hands :
- Before preparing food
- Before and after eating food
- After using the toilet
- After playing outdoors
- After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After touching an animal, or animal waste
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- After touching garbage.
Keeping food safe, clean and covered
It is important that the food we eat and the water we drink is clean and safe. Germs that get into food via dirty hands, flies and other insects, mice and other animals and dirty utensils can result in food poisoning, diarrhea or vomiting.
Most of the times, we can prevent food poisoning by preparing food in a hygienic way, covering raw and cooked foods, using clean covered containers to collect and store water, keeping our garbage bin covered to keep away insects and rodents.
Keeping toilets clean
Toilets are, many a times, the most neglected areas in Indian households. Even though the rest the house may be well maintained, toilets are at times damp, dark or moist, causing microorganisms to multiply rapidly. Damp towels and soap residue can encourage microbial growth.
Keeping bathroom surfaces as dry as possible after use, helps combat the growth of microorganisms. Ventilating the bathroom by opening the window or using an exhaust fan, hanging out the towels to dry after use help dissipate moisture.
Bath towels, hand towels should be kept clean by washing frequently. Bathroom sink and surfaces should be cleaned regularly, with the use of bathroom cleaners to remove dirt, grease and soap scum. Cleaning toilet bowl regularly with toilet cleaner and using disinfectants can help in maintaining toilet hygiene.
Not littering on roads
Many of us litter unhesitatingly on roads, while we may keep our houses spotlessly clean. Public places and lawns people are often strewn with food packets and wrappers. Many people take their pet dogs outside to defecate and refuse to clean up the mess. Peeing on the roadside is not uncommon either.
These habits must go as we strengthen our resolve towards maintaining cleanliness of our neighborhood and society. We can decide not to spread filth by keeping the used up packets with us till we see a dustbin, where we can throw them.
Living in a messy, garbage strewn place will create health issues and make people sick.
You and I, as individuals, can be a part of the clean-up drive across the nation by:
- Inculcating and maintaining proper standards of sanitation and hygiene in our everyday lives.
We can instill the spirit of cleanliness in our children.
We can educate our domestic help or workers on the importance of cleanliness, sanitation and hygiene.
By maintaining proper community sanitation and hygiene, we have the option to create a clean, healthy and dynamic India.
What are the other things in your mind that we could do to imbibe the spirit of swachchta or clealiness?
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1. Inadequate sanitation costs India Rs.2.4 trillion (US$53.8 billion), worldbank.org
2. Focus on health, sanitation can reduce stunting in children: World Bank, livemint.com
3. Greater Access to Cell Phones Than Toilets in India: UN, unu.edu