Better Sanitation = Better Health

Abbott launched a community-led effort to combat the risk of disease and malnutrition – and to change habits and minds.
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Sustainability | May 10, 2017

Amisha, a 15-year-old girl who lives in the Indian village of Talodara, used to regularly miss classes because she didn’t have access to basic sanitation facilities. It’s why girls and young women like her miss dozens of school days each year, often needing to trek home or elsewhere in order to use them. This adds to the challenges many already face in getting a quality education.

Amisha is one of about 595 million people in India – more than half the country's population – who don't have toilets at home. Globally, says the World Health Organization, she's among the 2.4 billion people without these facilities. Lack of access to toilets increases the risk of disease and malnutrition for people of all ages, from kids to seniors.

To help meet this need and advance India's "Swachh Bharat" drive to improve sanitation and hygiene, Abbott launched a community-led sanitation campaign in two Indian villages near its facility in Jhagadia, Gujarat. But this isn't just about building toilets. It’s also about changing minds and habits – and good health is at the foundation.

Improving Sanitation, Empowering Communities

India's National Sample Survey Office reported that less than half of the 9.5 million toilets built in rural India are being used, so Abbott's new approach is rooted in education that can create lasting change. Abbott employee volunteers and partners want to raise awareness of toilet use and good hygiene – and its connections to good health.

Abbott brought this approach to life in the villages of Talodara and Dadheda, where nearly 70 percent of homes lacked toilets and more than 85 percent of residents were unaware of the importance of proper hygiene. As part of its work in these villages, Abbott trained more than 3,100 villagers in hygiene and toilet maintenance, constructed toilets in every home (more than 500 total), and seven community toilets.

In addition to building toilets in schools and every home, Abbott partnered with Mahila Housing SEWA Trust for ongoing community empowerment, which included:

  • Visiting homes each week to discuss the importance of proper hygiene
  • Inspiring women and children through school plays and programs to educate their own households
  • Supporting community leaders, and helping residents learn how to maintain their toilets
  • Encouraging health and hygiene in two local schools through programs led by Abbott employee volunteers
  • Working with communities to monitor the program's progress
  • Refining efforts where needed to ensure new toilets are used and maintained

By working directly with people in these communities to provide sanitation facilities, Abbott is helping them live their best, healthiest lives.