New Delhi
1.38 billion

The COVID-19 pandemic is an urgent crisis in India. Handwashing is a key defence against coronavirus, but 131 million Indians still live without a source of clean water.

To tackle the spread, we are running a campaign using digital images and posters, audio messages and videos in English and six Indian languages. These are being disseminated through text messages, WhatsApp, community radio, local TV channels and loudspeakers in communities.

Our response to COVID-19 in India

More than a billion people call India home. This vast population is spread across deserts and deltas, green valleys and rocky mountains, remote villages and mega-cities. Reaching everyone with clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene is a huge challenge.

That hasn’t stopped us making real progress. We have reached millions of people with these three essentials – enabling communities to unlock their potential to break free from the cycle of poverty and to change lives for good.

But while many thrive in the world’s second fastest-growing economy, millions are being left behind.

Almost one in three people has no decent toilet, and so has no choice but to go to the toilet in rivers and fields, beside train tracks or down alleyways. And every year, more than 33,000 children children under the age of five die because of diarrhoea caused by dirty water and poor sanitation. It is particularly tough to get decent toilets and clean water to people living in India’s rapidly expanding slums.

people don't have clean water.

That's almost 10% of the population.

people don't have a decent toilet.

Almost one in every three people.

children under the age of five die each year from diarrhoea.

Caused by dirty water and poor toilets.

Together, we can make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene a normal part of everyday life for everyone in India.

What does WaterAid do in India?

We give people the knowledge and confidence to demand their rights. We support the Government to integrate water, toilets and hygiene into health, nutrition and disaster strategies, building systems that last.

And we make sure services meet the specific needs of women, children and disabled people so that no one is left behind.

A sanitation superhero

Image: WaterAid/Eliza Powell
There are many changes. The biggest change is that the girls, our daughters, don’t have to go far away. When they used to go far away, people in their cars would stop and stare, and sometimes call or approach them.
Chanda, community toilet caretaker

Chanda is a caretaker for her community’s toilet block in Delhi. It’s her job to make sure the toilets are clean and working and to help her neighbours use them properly.

People in Chanda’s district used to have no decent toilets, forcing them to go outside, sometimes far from home. This put the community at risk of disease, and women and girls at risk of harassment.

“There are many changes,” Chanda told us. “The biggest change is that the girls, our daughters, don’t have to go far away. When they used to go far away, people in their cars would stop and stare, and sometimes call or approach them.”

Chanda is also part of a community group that gets together and talks to neighbours about safe sanitation and good hygiene.

She takes immense pride in her work: “I look after the public now. I like it a lot and I will continue to do this until I have my last breath.”

Across the Tracks

After Nisha narrowly escaped an attack while trying to find a private place to go to the toilet, her mother, Radha, decided to take action. Our film Across the Tracks follows their remarkable story of change.

Image: WaterAid/Isabelle Neill

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