2016-10-17 16:27:00

Church agencies join state government to end open defecation in India's Kerala state

Southern India's Kerala state is planning to declare itself Open Defecation Free (ODF) on Nov. 1, an achievement made possible by cooperation between Catholic Church groups and the state's Communist-led government.  The state government, as part of a federal campaign for a ‎cleaner nation, hopes to eliminate open defecation by the end of October, 2016.  Kerala will become the second state in India to achieve this distinction after the northeastern state of Sikkim.  ‎
K. Vasuki, head of the Suchithwa (cleanliness) Mission, the government agency coordinating the ‎campaign said church agencies and parishes played "a big role" both in facilitating the construction of ‎toilets in such areas and changing the mindset of people who were against the idea of owning a toilet. ‎About 50,000 self-help groups and social service organizations under 33 Catholic dioceses in the state ‎are working with the government.  Only 3 percent of houses in Kerala are without toilets, most of them ‎in hills or in coastal areas.  ‎
Father George Vettikkattil, executive director of Kerala Social Service Forum, said self-help groups ‎created awareness about the need to end the practice of open defecation.  Vasuki said about 90 percent ‎of the 190,000 toilets needed to achieve "open defecation free status" have been constructed in Kerala. ‎Six of the 14 districts have already declared an end to open defecation.  The government plans to ‎declare the entire state ODF on Nov. 1, when the state celebrates 61 years since it ‎was formed.  

Eliminating open defecation India by 2nd October 2019 – the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi – is one of the key aims of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan movement launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi two years ago on Gandhi's birthday.  According to the Swachhta Status Report 2015, more than half of the rural population (52.1 per cent) of the country still defecates in open.  As of August 2016, only 17 of Indian 685 districts have been declared ODF by the government. Of the more than 600,000 villages in India, 54,732 were declared ODF as of 31st March 2016. These figures are sourced from responses to parliament questions.  (Source: UCAN and others)


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