Improving India’s health and sanitation

bwdc-india-mathavi.jpg13 June | 2014

As less than half of India’s 1.2 billion inhabitants live without access to safe drinking water and sanitary systems, Oikocredit’s Indian-based subsidiary, Maanaveeya, implemented a programme to help address water and sanitation needs.

Although access to drinking water has improved in India, the World Bank estimates that 21% of communicable diseases are related to unsafe water. In India, diarrhoea alone causes more than 1,600 deaths per day. In regards to sanitation, latrine usage is extremely poor in rural areas of the country, with only 14% of the rural population having access to a toilet.

Maanaveeya’s programme began in collaboration with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), through both grant (capacity building and technical assistance) and loan funds with the aim of providing low income earners the possibility to purchase or build safe water and sanitation facilities. The programme has provided funding to Oikocredit partner, Bharathi Women Development Centre (Bharathi), a community-based development agency providing microfinance services mostly to women. Since the programme’s initiation in 2011, Bharathi has provided financing to 10,500 clients as well as workshops and conferences to educate and inform communities about different types of water and sanitation facilities and loans available.

Bharathi works in three districts of rural south east India, where the majority of inhabitants are landless labourers or small-scale farmers. Bharathi is engaged in various development activities, including irrigation and land development, water management and sanitation projects. It also provides short and long-term loans for farming, as well as offering life and income insurance. In addition, it sets up women’s self-help groups and provides education in financial literacy, health and nutrition. Bharathi’s loans have benefitted entire families and communities, including Mrs Mathavi (pictured) who lives in the village of Thirukannamangai, Tamil Nadu. Mathavi and her family were living without a toilet. Every day before sunrise and after sunset, they had to walk a kilometre to relieve themselves in the bushes or a ditch. Mathavi approached Bharathi for a sanitation loan, receiving INR 12,000 to construct a household toilet. The loan was issued along with training and support through a Maanaveeya capacity building grant. Mathavi said the sanitation system has provided her family a greater sense of self-respect as well as safety for her and her young daughter.

Maanaveeya’s water and sanitation programme has impacted on many people’s lives, with a survey showing that 100% of respondents were satisfied with their sanitary and/or water systems. The water and sanitation facilities have led to considerable socio-economic impacts, increased dignity and safety among women, reduction in manual labour (to carry water), savings in time and improvement in health. Maanaveeya and IFC will continue providing finance and capacity building support towards this programme for the coming years.

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