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Speak to any of the residents of Safeda Basti, a slum located in the east of India's capital city of Delhi, and a significant problem quickly emerges.

The community toilet block, which serves more than 570 households in this tight network of alleyways, is closed between 10pm and 6am, leaving residents no choice but to find a place to relieve themselves outside during these times – or turn to more drastic solutions.

"Going outside to use the toilet is horrible," Durga, 32, tells us. "I have young daughters and I feel afraid to send them to the toilet. Anything can happen because there are lots of people around."

As an illegal settlement, Safeda Basti has remained largely unconnected to the city's main infrastructure, including essential sanitation services, since people first moved here more than two decades ago. And the consequences, especially for the girls and women in the community, can be devastating.

'My children and I don’t eat much'

Durga stands next to the highway which runs alongside Safeda Basti, Delhi.

Durga stands next to the highway which runs alongside Safeda Basti. It's one of the places residents use to relieve themselves when the community toilet is closed. "My children and I don't eat much so we don't have to use the toilets," she explains. "Soon we will have our own toilet, so it will be better. I see a very big future for my children."

'The kids go at home and I throw it out in a bag'

Muniya Devi, Delhi, India

27-year-old Muniya sometimes uses the car park outside the Basti to go to the toilet during the night, taking her husband with her for safety. But she lets her three children, who are seven, five and two, relieve themselves at home, despite not having any facilities. "I throw it out in a bag or paper," she says.

'I don’t come here alone'

Nankeshar stands by the river near Safeda Basti, Delhi.

The nearby river is another popular spot for open defecation. "A lot of things can happen here," says 18-year-old Nankeshar. "We usually come in a group of two, three or four. People will snatch your phone and you catch a lot of disease. It's dangerous coming here."

'I get up early so nobody can see'

Sarita Devi, Delhi, India.

By 6am there are already queues outside the community toilet, so making other plans is often the only option. "I go early in the morning," says Sarita, 25. "I get scared. If men look at you relieving yourself, it's shameful. I hope that in the coming year I will get a toilet of my own."

A brighter future for Safeda Basti

Thanks to your support, we're helping the community of Safeda Basti build their own household toilets, so they no longer need to relieve themselves out in the open at night.

Working with our partner organisation CURE (Centre for Urban and Regional Excellence), we've connected 112 houses to a new sewer line and are helping families build toilets in their own homes, so they can keep clean and healthy – and look forward to a better future.

Find out more about the difference your support is making around the world >



All photos WaterAid/Adam Ferguson