India’s diarrhoea problem that no one wants you to know about

Diarrhoea, that slightly embarrassing infection we avoid talking about when we suffer from it! We often consider diarrhoea as something not very serious, yet in India it has become the second biggest killer of children under age five. Around the world annually more than 500000 children under five lose their lives due to severe dehydration caused by diarrhoea.

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The buzzing of the crowd, vendors ringing their bells, calling out their wares. The intoxicating smell of vada pav overpowered by a baser and horribly unpleasant aroma. Human faeces in clumps on the railway track and flies everywhere. I was at Kurla station to greet a friend. That said, I could be at any long distance railway station in India and it would look and smell the same.

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Before 12,000 BC, when a climate change event occurred, man was more of a hunter-gatherer. Farming was ‘invented’ in different places: in West Asia about 12,000 BC, in Africa about 10,000 BC, in South America and China about 8000 BC. From these places, agriculture spread to Europe, northern Europe, Sudan and Native Americans between 7000 BC and 1 AD.

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While Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is a recognised media success, the absence of big-picture thinking is a serious threat to the success of the mission. And it will do nothing to solve the sanitation time bomb we are sitting on. We need to collectively explore sustainable solutions that address India’s sanitation challenges holistically without compromising our environment.

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