A Clean (Sampoorna Swachh) India
Towards maintaining an open defecation free and clean environment and managing wastes efficiently
Ensuring Sustainability of Sanitation Services
On the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, India celebrated the end of the five-year Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), the world’s biggest behaviour change programme to eliminate open defecation. While the country was commended for having gone from 39 per cent to almost universal toilet coverage in just five years, a lot was remained to be accomplished.
According to the national statistics, over 100 million household toilets were constructed by the deadline benefitting 500 million people across 630,000 villages, but the government acknowledged that more had to be done. Consistent reinvestment in building up and strengthening the rest of the sanitation cycle and reaching last-mile populations remained a priority in the way forward.
To sustain the gains achieved in the first phase of SBM, the Government of India launched the second phase of the flagship programme to ensure that communities remain clean by preventing faecal waste from flowing into fields and contaminating the surroundings.
According to the State of the World’s Sanitation Report by UNICEF and WHO, over half the world’s population (around 4.2 billion people), despite the progress being made in sanitation, use services that leave human waste untreated, threatening human and environmental health. This hampers child development and social and economic progress, making the fulfillment of child rights, good physical, mental and social well-being unattainable in the absence of safe sanitation.
UNICEF has been supporting the Swachh Bharat Mission since 2014 and is now working with the Government to strategize ways forward for the next phase of sanitation programming in the country.
That includes – solid and liquid waste management, handwashing - and emphasizes prioritizing behavior change communication and maintenance activities that ensure that toilets are functional and usable. Along with the central and state governments,
UNICEF is addressing the issues about the quality of construction and sustainability of toilet use. Effective social and behavioral change communication approaches must be in tandem with the service delivery to ensure that families constructing toilets continue to use and maintain them regularly and avoid slip backs.
Changing behaviour, beliefs, and myths around toilets is key to ensuring sustained open defecation-free status in all communities across India.
This makes it imperative that adequate follow-up activities are put in place once a community is declared open defecation free (ODF), to ensure that households that have newly embraced the social norm of toilet use do not regress into their former practice of open defecation.
Getting thousands of gram panchayats to reach this milestone calls for decentralized planning, investment in human resources, budgetary provision, and an excellent supervisory and management structure to ensure that the behaviour change activities are undertaken even after the initial declaration of ODF status.
With support from UNICEF, the Government of India has been rolling out a massive capacity building effort intending to local government representatives pan-India with training them on how to invest in sustainable sanitation interventions and promote gender-inclusive activities in villages, and converge it with water supply programming with the advent of the Jal Jeevan Mission.
UNICEF India is reinvesting in building up and strengthening the rest of the sanitation cycle, such as encouraging consistent handwashing with soap to prevent COVID-19, providing options for managing solid and liquid waste safely, addressing the often under-addressed issue of child faeces, and investing in climate-resilient systems that can withstand natural disasters.
As a longstanding partner to the Government of India, UNICEF extends technical support to 16 state governments in developing district-wide ODF+ plans and implementation models, that incorporate behaviour change messaging for generating demand for waste management systems.
UNICEF strives to ensure that the rollout models adopt a strong equity dimension to prioritize the most vulnerable communities and are risk-informed especially in disaster-prone districts. UNICEF supports third-party verification to help authenticate real-time monitoring that informs the government’s policymaking on sanitation.
UNICEF is looking forward to partnerships with individual agencies and corporates for collaborative work on its sanitation programme. We are committed to supporting the world to realize the Sustainable Development Goal – 6 by 2030.