New Delhi: Despite the significant efforts by the Government of India and other actors in this sector, the scale of the problem with poor sanitation and hygiene continues to be one of the major causes of sickness, death and lack of human dignity in the country.
Today, around 632 million people in India alone have no access to sanitation.
On Wednesday, the Indian Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) hosted a meeting in New Delhi with the aim of entering partnership on sanitation with Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Iindustry (FICCI) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
"The lack of sanitation continues to be a silent disaster with shockingly high human costs. Unless sanitation programmes are scaled up, the most vulnerable will fall behind even further," said Dr S.P. Agarwal, Secretary General of Indian Red Cross Society.
"As the needs are enormous and the resources are limited, no government, company or humanitarian organization can take on this challenge by itself. Instead, all good forces have to join hands to ensure equitable access to sanitation for all in coming years, starting with social mobilisation at the community level to change behaviour and practises," said Dr S.P. Agarwal.
Bekele Geleta, Secretary General for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) underlined the importance of community-based action to accomplish behavioural change.
"To address the lack of sanitation, it's crucial to change mindsets. In this endeavour, we bring forward our community-based network of volunteers as agents of change for better practises and behaviour," he said.
Dr Didar Singh, Secretary General, FICCI, emphasized the need for developing technologies and strengthening water management.
"FICCI has been actively participating in water and sanitation initiatives in the country both through state level and national level programmes. While FICCI has brought technologies developed by DRDO including eco-friendly bio digester toilets for public use as part of our clean sanitation drive, we envisage our partnership with IFRC and WHO as crucial for scaling up the clean sanitation effort. FICCI's Corporate Water Stewardship programme as well FICCI water awards have successfully created awareness for water management and conservation amongst corporate India. Our partnership with IFRC will further strengthen private sector collaboration with civil society and organisations like IFRC and ensure access to clean water and sanitation for all", said Dr Didar Singh, Secretary General, FICCI.
Lauding the initiative of the Indian Red Cross Society and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, WHO Representative to India, Dr Nata Menabde said, "The impact of inadequate sanitation on health, both in households and across communities is well-documented. The need for urgent, coordinated and coherent action in this direction is imperative. Through this partnership, we stand ready to provide technical support to government's efforts in this direction."
The partnership will not set up any new structures or funding mechanisms, but focus on enhancing action at the community level. Among other, a pilot project will be implemented up to 2015 as a precursor to longer term programming to 2025.