India and its Open Defecation Problem: Will 12 Million Toilets Suffice as Solutions?

Open defecation has been a long-standing problem in India because millions live in homes without toilets, which causes contagious diseases to spread easily. In 2014, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi came into power, his government launched the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). The program aimed to make the country open defecation-free (ODF) in 2019, by constructing and installing an estimated 12 million toilets.

Although health and sanitation experts reported in 2019 that India has become 100 percent Open Defecation Free, there are certain gaps that still expose people in both rural and urban areas to the threats of communicable diseases like typhoid, cholera, and lately, COVID-19.

Apparently, the failures in the implementation of the ODF program are mostly concerned with the operations and maintenance of the toilets, to keep them safe and hygienic.

Why the 12 Million Toilets are Not Sufficient as ODF Solutions

Based on a 2019 report released by the World Health Organization under the program for Joint Monitoring of Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene, about 15% of India’s 14 billion population, continue to defecate in the open.

Safe containment and sanitary transport in connection with the disposal of septage and fecal sludge are yet to be addressed with proper solutions. There is also the matter of black and untreated gray water discharges running off into bodies of water in municipalities.

The Director of New Delhi’s Environment and Waste Management Division, Suneel Pandey said that because of those reasons, most of the constructed toilets are not in use. Pandey asserts that these implementation gaps must be addressed to achieve 100% usage of toilets.

Pandey added that most men in rural areas who still defecate in open spaces, do so as cultural inclinations. The opposite is true for women in rural areas, who shifted to toilet usage because they feel safer if compared to defecating in the open.

The threats posed by open defecation stem from the fact that fecal wastes discharged by both humans and animals carry large amounts of pathogens. The deposits of fecal wastes become massive reservoirs of microorganisms in the forms of parasites, viruses, and bacteria. These can all cause gastrointestinal infections that can spread because diseases like cholera, typhoid, and coronavirus are highly transmissible.

A report published by the Coalition Against Typhoid stated that typhoid is a disease endemic to India as the country records as many as 4.8 million cases of typhoid each year. A typhoid strain identified as quinolone-resistant has accordingly spread in India. The known treatment options are third-generation generic medicines azithromycin or ceftriaxone.

Can Generic Drugs Help Address Problems Posed by Contagious Diseases

Apparently, the availability and affordability of generic medicines across India have helped in preventing typhoid outbreaks in rural India. However, if the parasites are ingested by children, they result in malnutrition and eventually stunted growth. PM Modi’s government made generic drugs a mandatory treatment to ensure the low cost of medicines.

The sale and distribution of generic medicines in India are coursed through private pharma franchise companies. Indian nationals looking to operate a generic drugstore business can get in touch with the company in order to find a pharma franchise deal.