India: Children from the 'Disaster Capital' regain a safe environment
Edurumondi – an island enclosed by the river Krishna and the Bay of Bengal in the state of Andhra Pradesh which hosts a population of 5’500 persons – can now declare: full sanitation coverage. All permanent residents and school children have access to toilet facilities, to a large extent thanks to the work of Terre des hommes.
Edurumondi Island is located in the Diviseema region, which is often called the ‘Disaster Capital of India’ due to the frequent occurrence of cyclones and floods.
Tdh started working on the island in 2006 to improve the living conditions of the islanders – mostly Dalits – who were still suffering from the effects of the Tsunami. Few of the households and almost none of the six existing schools had functioning toilet facilities. Everyone was obliged to relieve him/herself in the open, which was restrictive as the inhabitants of the island were embarrassed of being taken by surprise during the day, and afraid to be bitten by snakes at night. But far more worrying was the fact that the children often suffered from illnesses linked to unsafe water, such as diarrhoea, which can be fatal or at least seriously affect the children’s immune system. Tdh started promoting healthcare and helped with the construction of household latrines on the island.
In 2009, the island was again caught up in the unfolding of a natural disaster. Heavy rainfall led to a flash flood causing extensive damage on the island. Tdh responded with emergency food support and the restoration of livelihood assets to farmers and fishermen, allowing the whole island to survive (fishing boats, etc.). Further renovation of the water and sanitation infrastructure was then initiated through construction/refurbishment of 564 household toilets and water and sanitation facilities in all the schools.
According to Christian Gemperli, Tdh departing delegate in India, “Now, the island is finally able to declare total sanitation coverage. All residents have access to a hygienic sanitation facility, as do all school children. Actual usage of the facilities proves to be almost universal – not a matter of course in rural India!”
Out of a total of 2.5 billion people worldwide that defecate openly, 665 million belong to India. Some 88 per cent of diarrhoeal deaths worldwide are attributable to unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene. (Source: UNICEF ‘Diarrhoea: Why Children Are Still Dying and What Can Be Done’, 2009)