- November 19 is observed as World Toilet Day
- Government should invest in health as much as possible: Jack Sim
- The combination of clean toilets and lives is unbeatable: Mark Balla
New Delhi: November 19 marks as World Toilet Day, an official United Nations International Observance day to inspire action to tackle the global crisis of sanitation and raise awareness on the crucial role that sanitation and hygiene plays in reducing disease outbreaks and creating healthier communities. As India observes the day, NDTV speaks with toilet warriors – Jack Sim, Founder Of World Toilet Organisation and Mark Balla, Author to know about the importance of hygiene and sanitation in today’s scenario, when the world is fighting COVID-19.
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Talking about the importance of World Toilet Day in today’s day and age, Jack Sim, Founder Of World Toilet Organisation said,
This year’s World Toilet Day is the most important because of the coronavirus pandemic. Never before, in the history of the mankind, awareness on hygiene was so high. Everywhere, people are talking about washing hands, keeping safe distance and maintains good hygiene so that they protect themselves and others from this highly contagious virus.
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Further talking about the importance of good sanitation and hygiene practices, Jack Sim said,
Even without COVID, 2 million people die of Diarrhoea every year. With COVID, we have suddenly realised that hygiene and sanitation are life saving. But, what we actually need is the same focus throughout even without the pandemic. We all need to fight this bigger pandemic of ‘sanitation practices’, which is slowly taking lives of millions and millions of people and polluting the environment in a big way.
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Sharing example of Singapore and talking about the impact of health on economy, Jack Sim added,
I grew up in Singapore and that time it was a very poor country. Our GDP was just 500 dollars a year. We didn’t have money to pay for hospitals or health crisis. But the government there invested a lot in water, sanitation and hygiene and because of which diseases like cholera, typhoid hepatitis went away. This is the biggest example that proves that a country can move from third world to first world if they invest and invest in health. Once the country has healthy people they can go to work, be more productive and instead of spending their salaries on huge medical bills, they can spend it on themselves. Now, Singapore is the fourth country with highest per capita. I think, the same formula can be applied to any country in the world and it will prove beneficial as when you prevent it is cheaper than cure.
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On the other hand, Mark Balla, Author talks about his journey as a toilet warrior and said,
My journey as a toilet warrior is totally an accident. 10 years ago, I was in India for my business, I met few young men, who lived in Dharvi, Mumbai and they took me to visit the school and their community. I learned that there was no toilet in the school and in the community and that’s why all girls there had to dropout from the school. That was the big turning point in my life, I realised, I needed to learn more about sanitation and toilets.
Mark Balla since then has been focusing on building toilets across India, especially in schools. He added,
Handwashing lessons that we give to children in schools will save their and their family’s life in future. We started by building one or two toilets and now through are projects we have covered over 1 lakh children across India. Over the years, one of the biggest learnings through our toilet building projects has been that we cannot build toilets for people and walk away. We need to look at building toilets as an holistic approach. We need to teach people about using the toilets, handwashing and how they can practice good hygiene. Behavioural change is the key to everything in India.
Reiterating the point of importance of sanitation in the times of coronavirus, Mark Balla further said, “Handwashing and good hygiene is so important, it saves life on a scale we cannot even imagine. The combination of clean toilets and lives is unbeatable.
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NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.