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Nearly One in Five Households in India Practise Open Defecation: NFHS-5 Data

The survey found that 83% of 636,699 households sampled had access to toilets, with greater accessibility in urban areas than in rural areas.

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New Delhi: Nearly one in five households in India practise open defecation, according to a health ministry report released on May 5, nearly two years after the Union government declared the country ‘open defecation free’.

The report is part of the fifth edition of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2019-21. The findings of the survey in respect of 22 states and Union Territories covered in phase one were released in December 2020. The findings for 14 states and Union Territories were released on November 24, 2021.

This is probably phase three of the findings of the survey which was conducted for 17 states between June 2019 and January 2020 and in 11 states between January 2020 and April 2021.

According to The Telegraph, the survey found that 83% of 636,699 households sampled had access to toilets, with greater accessibility in urban areas (96%) than in rural areas (76%). However, it found that 19% of households did not access toilets, implying some of those who had the facilities did not use them and preferred open defecation.

The report quoted K.S. James, director of the International Institute of Population Sciences in Mumbai, which coordinated the survey, as saying, “The survey asked about the use of toilets, not whether the infrastructure exists. It is possible some households are not using them.”

At the end of the Swachh Bharat Mission phase one, based on the number of toilets built by the government, India was declared an open defecation free nation in October 2019. This implied that all the households had access to toilets.

The Wire had reported in December 2021, citing NFHS-5 data, that while many states are on the path of achieving the ‘open defecation free’ status, India cannot yet be claimed as an ‘open defecation-free’ country. It said that the data shows that it is essential to measure the success of sanitation interventions on adoption, rather than access as representative of the true state of the scenario.

Also read: Declaring India ‘Open Defecation Free’ Doesn’t Mean Sanitation Goals Have Been Met

The NHFS-5 findings also assessed employment measures for women. It found that 32% of married girls and women aged 15-49 are employed. Among these, 83% earn cash while 15% do not receive any payment.

The employment rate among women in this age group shows a marginal increase to 32% – from 31% as recorded in NFHS-4.

In India, only 32% of married girls and women aged 15-49 are employed, compared to 98% of married men in the same age group.

Among health measures assessed, the survey found a slight dip in the prevalence of stunting among children aged five years or younger – from 38% in the previous NFHS 2015-16 to 36%, the newspaper reported. Stunting in children under five is a key indicator of chronic malnutrition.

(With inputs from PTI)