New Delhi: India is not alone when it comes to the problem of defecating in the open. Across the border in Pakistan, the number of people relieving themselves under the sky is almost as high.
Local media reports say that as many as 50 million Pakistanis do not make use of toilets. Or at least don't have access. As a result, millions of Pakistanis fall victim to water-borne diseases each year. Infants are especially susceptible to these diseases - an important contributor in making the country second highest in the list of child mortality rate in South Asia.
While under PM Narendra Modi's Clean India Program, there has been increased awareness about the benefits of using a toilet, ground reports from Pakistan suggest that the problem is not being addressed enough here. A feature report in the Dawn recently highlighted that the major difference between India and Pakistan when it comes to open defecation is that politicians and other officials in a position of power in Islamabad have failed to recognise the issue at hand.
Instead, according to the same report, even cities like Karachi and Lahore increasingly see residents making use of open spaces because of lacking public toilet facilities.
In a 2016 report published by WaterAid - a sanitation charity, Pakistan was in a list of 10 countries where city dwellers had the least access to toilets. China, Nigeria, Indonesia, Russia, Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Brazil and Ethiopia also figured in this list. And while India fared the worst here, social-awareness campaigns started promise to bring about a change. Meanwhile, a rather smelly denial is what is continuing in Pakistan.