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Changes in open defecation in rural north India: 2014 – 2018

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This paper reports on two surveys in rural north India. The first survey visited rural Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh in late 2018. It collected data on 9,812 people and interviewed 156 local government officials. The second survey, in Udaipur district, visited 505 households in 19 villages and 60 households in two census towns.
This new research sheds light on what the SBM did and on changes in open defecation since 2014. It is informative about changes because researchers revisited families who participated in a 2014 survey.
The main findings of this research:

  • In the 2014 survey 70% of people in rural Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh defecated in the open; in 2018, this figure has dropped to 44%.
  • Almost a quarter of people in households with latrines still defecate in the open (23% of rural people over the age of two). This percentage is unchanged from 2014.
  • Fifty seven percent of households without a latrine in 2014 had one by 2018.
  • States differ greatly in the percentage of households that received government support for latrine construction.
  • If sustained, the SBM’s reduction in open defecation is likely to improve health, but it comes at a social cost. 
  • Coercion and threats were commonplace and sanctioned by local officials; violence sometimes occurred.
Date: 31 January 2019