Why Indian children are among the shortest in the world?


It may sound weird to you but the height of your children is directly correlated to their and their neighbourhood’s access to toilets. To add to your surprise: Children in India are shorter, on average, than children in Africa, even though people are poorer, on average, in Africa. The reason behind this irony is the widespread open defecation, without using a toilet or latrine.

Short-Height-Action-WantedSo, even if you provide good nutritious food to your child for his/her growth but that would not increase their height unless you control the problem of open defecation in your surroundings. As per a report by Dean Spears of Princeton University in The Hindu, “faeces contain germs that, when released into the environment, make their way onto children’s fingers and feet, into their food and water, and wherever flies take them. Exposure to these germs not only gives children diarrhea, but over the long term, can cause changes in the tissues of their intestines that prevent the absorption and use of nutrients in food, even when the child does not seem sick.

Open Defecation: A threat closer to us than AIDS

It is startling to note that more than half of all people in the world who defecate in the open live in India (around 627 million). This problem is more concentrated in rural areas than in urban areas. According to an independent evaluation by the Planning Commission of India, nearly 73% households in rural India practice open defecation Open-Defecation-Action-Wanteddespite sanitation drives launched by the government. It is worth to be noted here that the Indian Government, under the 12th Five Year Plan, has made a goal to eradicate open defecation by 2017 under the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan.

Open defecation is a public health hazard and is the single largest threat to the health and nutritional status of people in India. Unavailability and inadequacy of toilets are the main reasons for the huge percentage of households still defecating openly. In fact, many government schools in Manipur, Assam, Bihar, Meghalaya, Madhya Pradesh, and Jharkhand are still without any sanitary facilities.

According to a study undertaken for the Water and Sanitation Program and the World Bank, it is estimated that the cost of inadequate sanitation for India’s economy is at $53.8 billion a year. This figure is equivalent to 6.4% of our GDP.

Indian-toilet-Action-WantedOn one hand, India thinks of sending a manned mission to Moon while on the other hand, it is still unable to provide clean drinking water and basic sanitation facilities to those living in rural areas or are poor.

So, even if you (a) live in an urban area, (b) with an educated mother, and (c) are not practicing open defecation, you are not safe from height-reducing germs even if a single household in your neighbourhood is defecating in the open.

Your dream of seeing taller children who can become healthier adults and a more productive workforce can be realized not just by giving latrines to people but by working together and make eliminating open defecation a top priority.

Needless to add here is that we should also discourage people who bring their dogs on streets for pooping or defecating. Now you know the reasons why…


Data Sources:

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Amelia Grace @ chai a cup of life
    Sep 05, 2013 @ 04:52:02

    I just stumbled upon this post and Something i never would have thought of. Yes, I can see Indian kids are very small/short but had only thought it was because of malnutrition…interesting post.


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