India has the largest number of stunted children in the world reveals a recent study. For Project Why that is one too many! The main reasons are: lack of toilets, dirty water and poor hygiene. In urban slums and even lower middle class colonies that is a reality. Narrow lanes, unchecked construction and overcrowding spell disaster. Even in the area where Project Why’s main office is located and where property is in 7 or even 8 figures, clean and drain water pipes get mixed and a foul smelling grey water runs in your taps. The reason being unchecked construction where pipes are dug ad infinitum by unskilled workers.
In slums where piped water does not exist, drinking water is collected in recipients of all kind from taps or water trucks. Then it is stored often in unhygienic condition and used for the next 24 hours.
Toilets are scarce. Those that exist are filthy. A brave Project Why teacher undertook the survey of local public toilets and was sick for two days. They were beyond filthy. The problem often was lack of water and budgets for cleaning.
It all comes down to planning.
What no one realised is that the dirty water is drunk by children below 2 who get stunted for life. The damage is irreversible. These children grow to be physically and intellectually weaker than their peers. Some do not make it to age 2 as they succumb to one of the many waterborne diseases. Death is rarer in cities where medical facilities are available but a stunted child is marked forever. Children cannot wait for long term solutions.
The way out is to educate people about the importance of water, about storing it in hygienic conditions, about washing hands before diving in the drinking water pot and about not wasting a drop.
At Project Why we do that relentlessly. Saturday is hand washing day. Regular competitions on water related themes help the children com up with solutions. Project Why even held a photo workshop where the theme was respect and one of the sub topics was RESPECT WATER. Here are some of the pictures taken by the children.
The workshop helped children experience reality and we hope they will carry the message forward.