Poor sanitation in B’luru slums takes a toll on women’s health

Bangalore City Health Women Women

Only 597 out of 2,000 slums get government help.

Bengaluru: Of the 93 million slum residents in India, 85% have poor or no access to sanitation, according to the National Sample Survey Organization report of 2019-2020. This impacts women’s health more adversely than that of men.

Rapid population growth has given rise to 2,000 slums in Bengaluru, out of which the government recognizes only 597. This has led to a significant increase in cramped living conditions. The alarming inaccessibility of clean toilets has led to women going out in the open to defecate. Sometimes one toilet is shared by more than 50 women.

Anita Singh, who has lived in the Nagavarapalya slum for five years, informed The Observer: “We have tried conveying our problems to the municipal corporation but they didn’t pay any heed. They said you can move out if you wish to. Where will we go in this big city?”

Women here are confined to their homes for most of the day. Toilet visits out in the open result in severe urinary tract infections, persistent diarrhoea, and maternal anaemia, directly associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes.

Dr Shon R of the Bangalore Baptist Hospital said: “Women also catch diseases like sexually transmitted diseases from men who use the shared toilets with others. This is often life-threatening for women”. Women with such diseases don’t often get themselves treated due to shame.

The Karnataka Slum Development Board (KSDB), which is supposed to improve the living standards of slum-dwellers, is yet to include most of the slums under its purview. Only a few slums have received individual toilets.

Vinay Prasad, a KSDB assistant Engineer of DJ Halli slum, said: “We are slowly constructing G+1 (ground-floor and first-floor) houses in some slums along with individual toilets. But we are not responsible for the maintenance of the toilets.”

About most slums not being notified, he said: “Though the state government allots around Rs 15- 20 lakh for a notified slum; no sanction has come for these unnotified ones.”

Lack of toilets also forces many women to defecate along the railway tracks and manage their menstrual needs, making them vulnerable to different forms of abuse. They often face harassment from men who lurk around the area.

Bharati Kumar, a mother of two from Raigad, Maharashtra, said: “We try to go in groups, but it’s not always possible. So whenever we see any man around, we shout to scare him away.”

Residents living around a slum in C.V. Raman Nagar are annoyed with the foul smell emanating from nearby bushes.

H.G Chavareddy, a retired inspector, said: “We have been complaining about the filthy conditions to the ward councillor and BBMP health supervisor Meenakshi to take action, but they have paid no attention.”

Some NGOs have come to the rescue of the slum-dwellers. They either help them build toilets or arrange community toilets with government help. Harish Babu of Mythri Sarva Seva Samithi, one of these NGOs, added: “We are conducting training programmes to increase awareness on various diseases caused due to poor sanitation. We also educate them on how to make sustainable use of soap and water.”

With consistent support from both the government and corporates, the slums can have better sanitation to prevent the outbreak of deadly diseases.

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