Texas-based nonprofit GFA (Gospel for Asia) constructs more than 10,000 toilets and sanitation facilities throughout Asia.
Open defecation, though rarely addressed, is still a pressing issue for those living below the poverty line in Asia. According to the World Health Organization, over 650 million people in India alone do not have access to a toilet.
Additionally, in a WHO fact sheet updated as recent as July 2017, it was reported that 2.3 billion people globally still lack access to basic sanitation facilities, and more than 800 million of those people practice open defecation behind bushes or into water sources, for example.
In 2014, UN Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson launched a new campaign to break silence on open defecation and to spur new action regarding toilets and sanitation services, saying, “I am moved by the fact that a child dies every 2 and a half minutes from diseases linked to open defecation. Those are silent deaths – not reported on in the media, not the subject of public debate. Let’s not remain silent any longer.”
In addition to child mortality rates, open defecation also impacts girls and women. The UN reported that a major factor of girls leaving school after puberty is the lack of private toilets in schools. Devastatingly, for developing countries, open defecation also results in economic losses of up to 260 billion dollars, annually.
Solving the Problem
With international organizations such as WHO and the UN applying their efforts to this issue, open defecation has decreased and toilets, latrines, and sanitary facilities have been on the rise. In Nepal, some UN workers are employing a different approach to tackling open defecation, referred to as CLTS, or “community-led total sanitation.” With a focus on education, teams sent from the UN visit individuals in their homes. They instruct them on the dangers of excrement and discourage them from the act of just “going wherever.”
Recently, GFA released a special report on the topic of open defecation, drawing fresh attention to this taboo subject.
Commenting on the report, GFA founder Dr. K.P. Yohannan, said: “God is desperately concerned about the poor and suffering, and even more so the helpless and vulnerable… Now God has given us the opportunity to show the world what he looks like through our mercy and compassion, which can be shown through something as simple as noticing and seeing these people who are without a safe, working toilet.”
He added: “Helping those who are vulnerable and in need is not a burden or an obligation, but an opportunity to be like Christ by entering into their pain and then choosing to do something about it.”
Read GFA’s special report on toilets and find out how you can help.