• According to a new report by the Wash Institute (a global non-profit organisation), India was responsible for the largest drop in open defecation since 2015, in terms of absolute numbers.
  • Universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) to achieve the United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 was also emphasised.


  • WASH is an acronym that stands for the interrelated areas of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene.
  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) WASH Strategy 2018-25 has been developed in response to Member State Resolution (WHA 64.4) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDG 3: Good Health and Well Being, SDG 6: Clean Water And Sanitation).
  • It is a component of WHO’s 13th General Programme of Work 2019–2023 which aims to contribute to the health of three billion through multisectoral actions like better emergency preparedness and response; and one billion with Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
  • It also takes on board the need for progressive realization of the human rights to safe drinking-water and sanitation, adopted by the UN General Assembly in July 2010.

Important points:

  • Within India, open defecation had been highly variable regionally since at least 2006 but by 2016 open defecation had decreased in all states, with the largest drops seen in Himachal Pradesh and Haryana.
  • Progress in curbing open defecation in sub-Saharan Africa was slow.
  • Between 2016 and 2020, the global population with access to safely managed drinking water at home increased to 74%, from 70%.
  • There is an improvement in at-source water resources and onsite sanitation systems.
  • At-source water resources include piped water, boreholes or tubewells, protected dug wells, protected springs, rainwater and packaged or delivered water.
  • Onsite sanitation system is a system in which excreta and wastewater are collected, stored and/or treated on the plot where they are generated.
  • There was an increase in safely managed sanitation services to 54%, from 47% between 2016 and 2020.


  • In order to ensure long-term sustainability of both centralised and decentralised sanitation, proper funding and investment was required.
  • The Report also talked about hygiene, especially in the context of the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
  • In June 2020, the World Health Organization and Unicef jointly launched the ‘Hand Hygiene for All’ initiative, which aims to improve access to handwashing infrastructure as well as stimulating changes in handwashing practices where facilities are available.
  • Handwashing facilities with soap and water increased to 71%, from 67%.
  • However, 3 in 10 people worldwide could not wash their hands with soap and water at home during the Covid-19 pandemic due to lack of water resources.

Open Defecation:

  • It refers to the practise whereby people go out in fields, bushes, forests, open bodies of water, or other open spaces rather than using the toilet to defecate.
  • It poses a serious threat to the health of children in India.
  • It exposes women to the danger of physical attacks and encounters such as snake bites.
  • Poor sanitation also cripples national development, by diverting people’s hard-earned money towards out of pocket expenditure on health (leading cause of dragging people into poverty), rather than productive investment like education.


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