“India is paying a heavy price because of preventable water-borne diseases: a study from the World Bank published in 2008 shows that the total economic impacts of inadequate sanitation in India was amounting to $53.8 billion per year, equivalent of 6.4 per cent of India’s Gross Development Production in the same period,” a statement from Unicef quoted Nicolas Osbert as saying.
Osbert was one of the speakers at a round table held to release data on the sanitation situation in the country as a step towards championing “Swachhta Hi Seva” campaign of the Union government. The campaign was started by President Ram Nath Kovind on Friday from Ishwariganj village in Kanpur, recently declared free from open defecation.
Citing a WHO study, Osbert said the loss in terms of human life was just as burdensome, with India contributing to 22 per cent of the global deaths due to diarrhoea among under-five children. “(I)t is estimated that in 2015, 1,17,000 under five children died of diarrhoea alone (WHO - 2015); this is more than 13 children per hour; this is 22 pc of the global burden with regard to under five mortality due to diarrhoea,” he said.
The pervasiveness of faecally transmitted infections because of insanitation caused by open defecation has impaired the ability of children to absorb nutrients, leading to a total of 39 per cent of children having a stunted growth in the country, he said.
The UN official said that the Indian government’s Swachh Bharat Mission was a “once-in-a-generation” movement to address the “intractable problem” of open defecation.