The Nirmal Bharat Yatra was a sanitation, a hygiene awareness and a behavior change campaign conceptualized and implemented by WASH United & Quicksand. It travelled 2,000 kms across rural parts of five Indian states from October to November 2012. India faces a severe sanitation crisis. More than half of all households have no toilet facilities, according to the latest census figures, a rate that has worsened in the last decade. Earlier this year, the government announced an ambitious goal to end open defecation in the country within 10 years. With 1,000 Indian children dying from preventable diarrhea every day, India is the undisputed world leader in child mortality from diarrhea, far ahead of Pakistan, Bangladesh or China.
There are two main causes for this daily tragedy in India. First, the country’s rampant open defecation. The 626 million Indians who poop on railroad tracks, roadside ditches and other open spaces in and around their communities every day creating a pile of disease-loaded excrement that very literally would fill Mumbai’s Wankhede cricket stadium to the roof every day. The biggest weapon of mass destruction on the planet. The second reason is poor handwashing hygiene. While proper handwashing with soap at critical times can reduce the occurrence of diarrhea nearly by half, making handwashing with soap the by far most cost-effective intervention to combat diarrheal disease, it is not yet widely practiced in India. According to the Public Health Association, only 53 percent of the Indian population washes hands with soap after defecation.
The Yatra aimed to tackle three primary messages: handwashing at proper times, ending open defecation, and ending the topic of menstrual hygiene management as a societal taboo. Through local, national, and international media, the Yatra reached 230 million people with its message.