Only 35.8 percent households in India practise hand-washing with soap or a detergent before a meal, according to the survey conducted by the National Sample Survey (NSS) 76th round report. The report also says that 60 percent households wash hands only with water.
With the increasing number of coronavirus cases in India, the question of hygiene and sanitation has also increased. The importance of washing hands with soap is an essential activity to be carried out amid the coronavirus spread, and communicating this information is a challenging task in India.
The National Sample Survey (NSS) 76th round report, 2019, reveals that 25.3 percent households in rural India and 56 percent in urban areas wash hands with soap or detergent before a meal. In the rural areas, 70 percent of people wash hands with water before a meal and 42 percent of people follow this practice in urban areas. There are 2.7 percent households in India who wash hands with ash, mud, and sand before their meals.
Apart from washing hands before meals, the alarming numbers are those who do not wash hands after defecation. About 26 percent of people in India do not wash their hands with soap or detergent after defecation. About 13.4 percent households, with 15.2 percent in rural and 9.8 percent in urban areas, wash hands only with water after defecation. Two-third toilets in India have water and soap or detergent available in or around the toilets.
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The report also showed some numbers where water was not available. There are 4.5 percent of the households in the rural areas and about 2.1 percent of the households in the urban areas reported that water was not available in or around the toilets used.
“We need to address the entire sanitation value chain to prevent COVID-19. The recent Lancet research report clearly says the virus stays alive in human stool for 11 days. That is why the Swachh Bharat Mission and its sustainability is so crucial to mitigate and prevent pandemics like COVID-19,” said Yusuf Kabir, WASH specialist, UNICEF, Maharashtra.
“There is no faecal oral transmission evidence of the coronavirus but safe containment of faeces is key," Yusuf Kabir told BusinessLine.
Param Iyer, Secretary - Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DDWS), Ministry of Jal Shakti, has appealed for sustaining Open Defecation Free (ODF) status and reach to the unreached with infrastructure and behaviour messaging.
“Handwashing with soap and safe containment of faeces should go simultaneously. Hand-washing with soap in rural areas is still a challenge, open disposal of child faeces is nearly 60 percent and toilet access and usage is 80-85 percent. This is cause for concern and the Lancet study and the intervention from DDWS and Maharashtra Water Supply and Sanitation Department are timely.” Kabir added.
The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation conducted a survey on drinking water, sanitation, hygiene and housing conditions as a part of the 76th round of NSS in 2019.
The total number of coronavirus cases in India has risen to 727 with the death toll rising to 20.