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Open Air Defecation

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Open Air Defecation
Introduction, Effects, Prevention

Defecating in the open is as old as humankind. As long as population densities were low and the earth could safely absorb human wastes, it caused few problems. But as more people gathered in towns and cities, we gradually learned the link between hygiene and health and, in particular, the importance of avoiding contact with feces. Today open defecation is on the decline worldwide, but nearly 950 million people still routinely practice it. Some 569 million of them live in India. Walk along its train tracks or rural roads, and you will readily encounter the evidence.

The practice of open defecation is rampant in India and our country is home to the world’s largest population of people who defecate in the open. Insanitary disposal of human excreta, along with unsafe drinking water and poor hygiene conditions, is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in low-income countries.

As per the most recent Swachhta Status Report in 2015, more than half of the rural population (52.1 per cent) of the country still defecates in open.

India has been grappling with the problem since before it won independence from Great Britain in 1947. “Sanitation is more important than independence,” Mahatma Gandhi said, urging his compatriots to clean up their act. To some extent they have: The percentage of Indians who defecate in the open has declined substantially in recent decades. But with the population growing rapidly, census data suggest that most Indians now live in places where they are more exposed to others’ feces, not less.

Reasons for Open Defecation

  • Habit, nomadic cultural lifestyles
  • Lack of access to toilets
  • Poverty
  • Belief that “latrines are for the old and weak”, “they are for new bahus and growing girls”
  • People see latrines as disgusting
  • Lack of Government support
  • Poor design of public toilets
  • Available open space
  • Poor understanding of health and hygiene factors

Effects of Open Air Defecation on Human Health

Open defecation is a  lack of hygiene and sanitation, an important factor that causes various diseases.

  • Colo-rectal diseases
  • Water borne diseases
  • Vector borne diseases

Defecating in the open space is one of the major reason of the Colo-rectal diseases in the rural India.

How Open Defecation Causes Colo-rectal Diseases

During open defecation people are usually conscious to move away easily when someone or a vehicle or an animal approaches them.

Due to this uncomfortable and Unnatural posture, they don’t pass stools completely. This results in coagulation of dirt in the colon pipe, which might result in formations of obstructions.

So the colon pipe doesn’t open fully. Hence only part of the stool passes away. Some portion still remains and leads to dirty colon and constipation. And this constipation can lead to Piles / Hemorrhoids and other Colo-rectal diseases.


The following factors prevent the cause of diseases and health-illness through Open Air Defecation.

  • Focus on behavior change
  • Construction of toilets
  • Teaching right habits at an early age to kids
  • Awareness campaigns
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