May 20, 2021

WILLS POINT, TX – Gospel for Asia (GFA World) founded by KP Yohannan, which inspired numerous charities like Gospel for Asia Canada, to assist the poor and deprived worldwide, issued this Special Report on the ongoing fight against open defecation, using outdoor toilets to improve sanitation.

Gospel for Asia (GFA World) reports on the ongoing fight against open defecation, using outdoor toilets to improve sanitation.
In this part of the slums in Mumbai, India, many people live in close proximity in unhygienic surroundings—lacking facilities like toilets and proper drainage.

What Do the World’s Sanitation Problems Have to Do with Us?

For those of us with indoor flush toilets—and clean ones at that—with sewer lines that carry waste to treatment facilities, and who live in places where waterborne and airborne bacteria are not a hazard, our response to this crisis is probably, So what? We don’t say this out loud, but like so many other dire extremes jockeying for our attention, it doesn’t really touch our lives.

However, in a majority of places, America is starting to suffer from failing infrastructure. Most of us think of that in terms of roads and bridges needing repair or major overhauling, a transportation issue. Yet infrastructure means water service, too.

Just two years ago, reporters from the Chicago Tribune conducted an exposé of the high bills being charged for water in underserved metro area neighborhoods. Maywood residents in a western suburb paid one of the region’s highest water rates, because older pipes allow major seepage. Of the 946 millions of gallons that Maywood bought from neighboring Melrose Park in 2016, some 367 million gallons, or 38.7 percent, never made it to taps. That cost residents in an already cash-strapped population nearly $1.7 million more than residents paid in other towns of similar size. And the poor are tapped for a disproportionate share of the bill.

What if I had to stand in line to use a communal latrine where flies buzzed, the floor was filthy, someone had evacuated due to acute diarrhea, and no one wanted to clean the mess? Now we’re getting closer.

Water problems may be closer than we think. In a 2012 article for a Yale University publication, reporter Cheryl Colopy—author of Dirty, Sacred Rivers: Confronting South Asia’s Water Crisis—warned: “In the United States, sewage treatment has not been a problem for the past half-century, but it could become one again as infrastructure ages and fails—especially if there is a lack of government money to replace it. In addition, certain regions of the U.S. are expected to experience water shortages as temperatures rise. New, water-saving, decentralized toilet technologies may need to be adopted not only in places like South Asia, but also in parts of the industrialized world.”

Indeed, we may be thinking more about sanitation issues in the near future. And, the burgeoning technologies used to solve defecation problems and to discover clean water solutions in the developing world may be solutions we will also seek not far down the road.

Women are prone to assault, disease runs rampant, and lives are at risk: all a result of using the bathroom outdoors.

What If You Didn’t Have a Toilet?

So I remind myself of toilet scenarios I do know about, then extrapolate some personal situations. Our home, in which we have lived for 40 years, has a septic system. During that time, we have suffered power outages amid extreme storms, meaning no water could be pumped from our underground well; this disabled our showers, faucets and toilets. I used to store plastic bottles of water so when things went black we could still brush our teeth, dress by candlelight and—get this—flush our toilets. If the power did not come back on for a couple days, frozen food thawed and excess detritus threatened to overflow the toilet basin.

So I extrapolate: What if this happened all the time? What if sewer lines broke, got clogged and backed up regularly? What if I lived in poverty, with no plumbers, no money and no electric company to call to fix this? What if I had to stand in line to use a communal latrine where flies buzzed, the floor was filthy, someone had evacuated due to acute diarrhea, and no one wanted to clean the mess? Now we’re getting closer.

A Squat Outdoor India Toilet
A well-cleaned squat toilet in Asia.

In refugee camps overseas, my travel companions and I held ridiculous discussions about who had invented squat toilets: men or women? Someone shot a photo of me holding a rickety latrine toilet door upright while a woman coworker trusted me to guard her privacy while she did her business. We may laugh, but for most of the world this situation is not a laughing matter. Smelling an overflowing latrine from 20 feet away might persuade even a Westerner to think similarly, even if only metaphorically. In truth, I don’t like the few outhouses I’ve been forced to use in the States, nor many of the spooky national park public facilities. If I can help it, I certainly avoid portable potties at public events.

When Your Septic Tank Problems Bring Embarrassment

My last attempt at toilet empathy. About 10 years after we moved to West Chicago, Illinois, our neighbor knocked on the door and apologized for complaining about the standing stinking water seeping into his property.

“I think you may be having trouble with your septic system,” he reported, a bit embarrassed.

I called two septic companies. One said I needed to have the whole septic field replaced; cost: $10,000. The other service man diagnosed another problem but with a similar estimate. Then I went to the DuPage County Health Department and asked what septic firms they would recommend. I called Black Gold, whose reps complained about the septic map drawn by the company that laid our field—that was now leaking.

“Would the health department let us get away with a layout like this?” he asked his partner. They both obviously thought the field plan had been rendered by some septic idiot. Sure enough, after spending about 45 minutes prodding our three-quarters-of-an-acre lot with long poles, they said: “Lady, you don’t need no new septic field. The lines of what’s there ain’t connected to the tank.” Their fee: $3,000. I made a garden from areas torn up by their repairs.

Many people in Asia draw water from smelly, vile ponds
Vile, brown liquid that some in Asia count on as their water source.

So what if I lived somewhere that permanently seeped smelly, vile, germ-ridden, brown liquid? What if the river at the back of the land was a running sewer, and my grandchildren couldn’t romp and splash in it? What if the fields were filled not only with animal feces but the excreta of some 300 neighbors?

You can come up with your own empathy-building stories.

Communities Band Together to Improve Sanitation

A family in front of a GFA-provided outdoor toilet facility
A family in front of a Gospel for Asia (GFA)-provided local facility.

Prime Minister Modi and his teams are sold on community-led initiatives, and so should they be. Change works best when a whole population is committed to seeing it happen.

Community development often works best when it is exactly that: an idea that grows out of the mind of a local visionary, capable of strategic thinking but with compassion for those nearby—his or her neighbors. And when a whole community becomes involved in “cleaning up its act,” few powers on earth can withstand such initiative.

Now what’s interesting about Gospel for Asia’s stories surrounding sanitation is that it is the local pastor in the village, who out of concern and knowing that open defecation has deadly disease-breeding potential, exercises compassion to love his neighbors through his concern about the availability of latrines.

This is an excerpt from a Gospel for Asia (GFA) story that appeared on last year’s World Toilet Day. It concerns a family in one community forced to use the open fields to defecate because they had no other proper place.

Malak, before being touched by Christ’s love, had been an alcoholic. After reading the entire Bible from start to finish, Malak was transformed and abandoned the bottle. Some years later, he met Jaki, and they were married.Eventually, the couple were blessed with two children. It seemed as if all was right for Malak and his family. However, a singular problem arose: The family had no toilet. The nearest place to relieve themselves was a little less than a mile away. During extreme weather, the family was forced to stay indoors, rendering those facilities useless. Going outside in the open was degrading and unhygienic, and at nighttime it was dangerous—who knew what kind of wild animals lurked about?

However, Malak and his family prayed, and their requests did not go unanswered. During a GFA Christmas gift distribution, they received a complete sanitation facility. They no longer had to trek half a mile just to use the bathroom or use the outdoors in fear.

What an extraordinary example of love in practical action.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.” —Luke 10:27

For women like this tea estate laborer, having no outdoor toilet facility could mean risking assault as they go out into an open field in the dark.
“It’s not safe to send our people, our children, our wives or our daughters to the tea garden at night to use the toilet,” Iniyavan said.
Iniyavan made only 2,400 rupees a month, which was equivalent to about $37 (USD) a month. He wasn’t able to save enough money to construct a toilet.
Open defecation means there’s the risk of disease as families continually return to communal waste grounds
GFA-supported Compassion Services teams construct outdoor toilets, also known as sanitation facilities, for people who, like Iniyavan, do not have the means to do so on their own.
“Now, since I have this toilet built in my house, I don’t have to worry. My family and I don’t have to go to the tea garden for toilet, and it is very safe here,” Iniyavan said.

On the Brink of Innovations, Change in Sanitation

Toilet technology is on the edge of remarkable, cost-effective, ecologically friendly frontiers. They’re becoming self-cleaning and solar-powered. A solar-powered toilet that converts waste into charcoal can then be used as fertilizer. An indoor toilet that works like a garden composter, spinning the contents and reducing odor and the number of dangerous pathogens. Portable rickshaw toilets. A community bio-digester toilet designed to convert human waste into gases and manure. Once ideas begin flourishing, there is no limit to what can happen.

Granted, Prime Minister Modi’s ODF csampaign may take a little longer to succeed. But the hardest pull of any new effort is at the beginning. Once new ideas start rolling, they gather steam. Some new toilet technologies may become catalysts as well. In addition, there are hundreds of international organizations working on sanitation solutions. They understand that one size does not fit all the variables that make up the particulars in this vast discussion, but added all together, it is a prohibitive association with evidence of remarkable dedication.

And when a whole community becomes involved in “cleaning up its act,” there are few powers on earth that can withstand such initiative.

A Canadian doctor, one of those “creative renegades” unhappy with the condition of the world who I have come to admire and love, was appointed as a provincial health officer in the highlands of Papua, New Guinea. During an aerial survey, he and his team discovered one distinctly cleaner and healthier village. Far below lay the evidence of what turned out to be a pastor with basic health training who had taught his people those lessons; the difference could be seen from the air. Inspired, they searched for a more integral way of ministering and soon began using a community health evangelism methodology, which had been developed in Africa.

Sometimes we get lost in the details on the ground. We need to stand back, take deep breaths and find some way to gather broader assessments—an aerial view. Progress is being made; it’s just a little harder in some places than in others. I’m proud that Gospel for Asia is one of the players.

Shout Out to Toilets!

Christianity has everything to do with sanitation. We serve a God who is expecting us to help restore the world He created to its original design. That is a world, among many other things, without rampaging diseases. One day, Scripture promises, it will be a world without death and suffering. So in this interim, let’s hear a shout out for all the toilets in the world!


Donate to Sanitation Projects

For only $540, you will help reduce the risk of common diseases by providing a family with an outdoor toilet.


About Gospel for Asia

Gospel for Asia (GFA World) is a leading faith-based mission agency, helping national workers bring vital assistance and spiritual hope to millions across Asia, especially to those who have yet to hear about the love of God. In GFA’s latest yearly report, this included more than 70,000 sponsored children, free medical camps conducted in more than 1,200 villages and remote communities, over 4,800 clean water wells drilled, over 12,000 water filters installed, income-generating Christmas gifts for more than 260,000 needy families, and spiritual teaching available in 110 languages in 14 nations through radio ministry. For all the latest news, visit our Press Room at https://press.gfa.org/news.


Read the rest of Gospel for Asia’s Special Report: Fight Against Open Defecation Continues – Using Outdoor Toilets to Improve Sanitation Part 1

Learn more by reading these Special Reports from Gospel for Asia:


This Special Report originally appeared on gfa.org.

Read what Christian Leaders have to say about Gospel for Asia.

Click here, to read more blogs on Patheos from Gospel for Asia.

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Notable News about Gospel for Asia: FoxNews, ChristianPost, NYPost, MissionsBox

May 19, 2021

WILLS POINT, TX – Gospel for Asia (GFA World) founded by KP Yohannan, which inspired numerous charities like Gospel for Asia Canada, to assist the poor and deprived worldwide, issued this Special Report on the ongoing fight against open defecation, and how using outdoor toilets helps to improve sanitation.

Gospel for Asia (GFA World) reports on the ongoing fight against open defecation, using outdoor toilets to improve sanitation.

Karen Burton Mains
Karen Burton Mains, author

Since I first wrote about open defecation a few years ago, efforts to combat the problem have gathered momentum. A report compiled by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in June shows the percentage of people practicing open defecation declined from 21 percent (1.3 billion) in 2000 to 9 percent (673 million) by 2017.

While this is encouraging news, there is much more to be done. The United Nations (UN) says “some 2.2 billion people around the world do not have safely-managed drinking water, while 4.2 billion go without safe sanitation services and three billion lack basic handwashing facilities.”

“Mere access is not enough,” said Kelly Ann Naylor, UNICEF’s associate director of water, sanitation and hygiene. “If the water isn’t clean, isn’t safe to drink or is far away, and if toilet access is unsafe or limited, then we’re not delivering for the world’s children.”

In addition to the UN, this multi-faceted effort includes governments, non-governmental organizations and various Christian and non-Christian charities. All have launched initiatives that include long-term goals for ending this threat to the world’s health. The UN’s global sustainable development goals include ensuring that everyone has a safe toilet and that open defecation ends by 2030.

Children investigate new toilet
Children in Cote d’Ivoire investigate their community’s newly improved toilets, one of the UNOCI’s “quick impact projects” (QIPS) which supported the rehabilitation of schools and toilets in Abidjan. UN Photo/Patricia Esteve

People using the bathroom outdoors with no toilet nearby nor sanitary treatment of their discharge has fueled disease, created serious health problems and endangered female safety by exposing them to possible rape or other abuse. Then there is the particularly stomach-turning incident from July 2018, when a 3-year-old South African boy drowned in a pit latrine—a type of crude toilet that collects feces in a hole in the ground. Four years earlier in the same province, a 5-year-old boy drowned in a school toilet.

Such horror stories help explain the need for “World Toilet Day,” which falls every year on November 19. Inaugurated in 2013, the UN-sponsored observance urges member states to encourage behavioral changes and implement policies to increase access to sanitation among the poor. Despite progress in recent years, the situation is serious, as shown by the June UN report.

Among key sanitation facts from WHO:

  • In 2017, only 45 percent of the global population used a safely managed sanitation service.
  • Two billion people do not have basic sanitation facilities, such as a toilet or latrine.
  • At least 10 percent of the world’s population is thought to consume food irrigated by wastewater.
  • Poor sanitation is linked to transmission of diseases such as cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid and polio.

In short, open defecation is a worldwide health crisis, one that demands a caring response from the world—especially those who profess to follow Christ.

GFA World supporters visit outdoor toilet installed by Believers Eastern Church in South Asia
GFA World supporters get the opportunity to visit an outdoor toilet installed by Believers Eastern Church for the benefit of multiple families in this neighborhood around Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. During 2019, 5,428 toilets like these were installed by GFA across South Asia to help improve the sanitation challenges in many developing communities.

Hanging Out with “Renegades”

For much of my adult life, I have hung out with the “renegades” of Christian missions. Namely, the relief-and-development crowd that rushes to help during natural disasters, struggles to alleviate the suffering and abasement of refugee displacement, and pays concerted attention to the struggles of people in developing nations. My first trip around the world came at the invitation of Food for the Hungry; I traveled with Larry Ward, the executive director at the time, and his wife, Lorraine.

The purpose of the trip was an international field survey with an emphasis on the world’s refugee crisis, which in the l980s was the largest since World War II. We started in Hong Kong and ended seven weeks later in Kenya, Africa. My assignment was to observe with fresh eyes and write about what I had seen. I wrote my book, The Fragile Curtain, with the help of daily briefings from the U.S. State Department and the excellent international reporting of The Christian Science Monitor (and some generous coaching from a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper reporter). It won a Christopher Award, a national prize for works that represent “the highest values of the human spirit.”

“I never realized,” he said, “that I would eventually measure the impact of the Gospel by how many toilets had been built in a village.”

Eventually, I brought the accumulated exposure of my world travels—some 55 countries in all—and the learning I had gathered through research and dragging through camps and slums to the board of Medical Ambassadors International (MAI), a global faith-based health organization.

Villagers from the village that received outdoor toilets
Women and girls are often at risk when open defecation is the only option for relieving themselves. Thankfully, these precious faces can smile because a toilet facility was recently built in their village.

GFA’s Story, Helping to Improve Sanitation in Asia

As I mentioned earlier, Christianity has a vital role in ending these problems. One of the organizations involved is Gospel for Asia (GFA), long close to my heart and that of my husband, David Mains. We met K.P. Yohannan, GFA’s founder, when the ministry was a mere vision in the heart of a young Indian man. It was a divine nudge that would not let up. Since then, David has traveled to Asia at the invitation of Gospel for Asia (GFA) eight times; I have visited once. We’ve watched as K.P.’s vision grew from a dream to reality, with numbers beyond anything we could have considered possible.

GFA’s website tells its vast story: In 2018 the ministry fed, clothed and schooled some 70,000 impoverished children, operated 1,128 free medical camps and constructed 6,431 toilets with dual-tank sanitation systems.

A family stands in front of a India toilet - a GFA-installed latrine or squatty potty.
This family stands in front of a latrine or “squatty potty” that was installed by GFA-supported national workers.

Gospel for Asia (GFA) started building latrines in 2012, setting a goal of constructing some 15,000 concrete outhouses by 2016. It long ago surpassed that mark. Figures for 2016 alone: 10,512 toilets installed, with another 6,364 following in 2017, and another 6,431 in 2018. Potable water, of course, travels hand in hand with sanitation. In 2018, the ministry’s field partners constructed 4,712 Jesus Wells and distributed 11,451 BioSand water filters to purify drinking water. Touching vignettes on GFA’s website make the statistics personal.

“Our family is blessed both physically and spiritually,” said one villager in Asia. “We are free from problems and sickness.…It is because of the people who have spent their money to drill a Jesus Well in my place.”

“This saved the lives of people from illness,” said another—and indeed, toilets, when and if they are used, do just that.

There, indeed, is a thread that runs through Gospel for Asia’s stories of toilets: The pastor of the church in this village or that hamlet seems to be the catalyst for health improvements.

Organizations Tackling the Sanitation Crisis

Matt Damon, founder of Water.org
Matt Damon, the founder of Water.org (photo credit Water.org)

Much of the world is in a war against the perils caused by inadequate or non-existent sanitation. People as diverse as Matt Damon, a Hollywood celebrity, award-winning actor and producer/screenwriter, and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi are battling uphill against open defecation (in the sewers, in running streams, by the roadsides, in the fields and the forests, on garbage dumps, etc.).

Damon, driven by a desire to make a difference in solving extreme poverty, discovered that water and sanitation were the two basic foundations beneath much of what ails the world. Through his charity, Water.org, he and his business partner, Gary White, use microfinance loans to help underserved people connect to a service utility or build a home latrine. By 2020, more than 30 million people in 17 countries have been affected by this approach.

Prime Minister Modi campaigned to end open defecation and build latrines for India
Prime Minister Modi campaigned to end open defecation and build latrines for India.

Photo by narendramodiofficial on Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

During his campaign for office in 2014, Modi spoke of “Toilets Before Temples.” His party’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission) campaign has undoubtedly made progress, thanks in part to the $28 billion (U.S.) originally allocated, plus World Bank loans totaling another $1.5 billion.

After a Reuters News Service story last May portrayed the government as using overly optimistic results about the initiative, India’s Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation issued a release, saying its program had “succeeded in lifting more than 550 million people out of open defecation in a short period of less than 5 years.” His re-election last year may be partly due to the progress of the initiative he organized to curtail the practice.

Talking Openly About Open Defecation

Another key dilemma in this discussion—open defecation, hardly a dinner-table topic or a missions committee agenda item—is that accessibility to toilets does not always indicate usage. Changing habits is mostly a matter of changing mindsets in the face of deeply entrenched beliefs.

Some 1.5 million people die globally each year from polluted water diseases alone.

Elizabeth Royte, in a comprehensive August 2017 National Geographic magazine article, reported visiting Parameswaran Iyer, India’s secretary of drinking water and sanitation, in 2016. A hand-numbered sign on his wall tracked progress.

“You see that?” he asked. “One hundred thousand is the number of villages that are ODF today.” (ODF is the acronym for open defecation free.)

Royte, a sanitation expert traveling widely and reporting extensively, noted that Modi aimed to build more than 100 million new toilets in rural areas alone by 2019. But she added that “deep-seated attitudes may present an even bigger barrier to improving sanitation than a lack of pipes and pits.”

Echoing that observation, on World Toilet Day in 2018, The Washington Post reported: “Although increasing the number of toilets and improving their quality is important, the larger challenge is how to ensure that they actually will be used. … In our survey of 810 households in Delhi’s slums, where private toilet ownership is rare, we found that many people do not regularly use nearby public toilets, known as community toilet complexes, built specifically for slum dwellers.”

Facing the Facts about India Toilets

That being said, let’s look at data regarding the state of toilets and open defecation in Asia. Then let’s examine what development organizations, sanitation technologies and mission groups, namely Gospel for Asia, are attempting to help Asia become ODF.

Although Modi has emphasized improved sanitation, it’s worthwhile to note that India struggled with these issues even before winning independence from Great Britain in 1947. In fact, Gandhi insisted, “Sanitation is more important than temples.” Now, due to population growth, a conundrum exists: While the percentage practicing open defecation has dropped substantively, birth rates are creating an environment where more people live in geographic locations where fecal exposure is increasing, not decreasing.

37%

of the urban population—some 157 million urban dwellers—lacked a safe and private toilet, according to UK-based charity WaterAid in November 2016.

Even sewers are no guarantors of healthiness: In the capital city of Delhi, pipes are corroded; they ooze waste; and nearly a third of the booming city isn’t connected to underground lines. Many latrines flush into open drains.

700,000

—4 percent—of this urban population still defecated outdoors.

56%

only of the sewers are safely managed.

Just 1 gram of feces can contain:

100 million viruses

1 million bacteria

1 thousand parasitic cysts

These can be absorbed through cuts in the flesh, the porous nature of skin itself, or by drinking unsafe water and eating contaminated foods. Flies carry disease from roadsides and open fields.

Health figures are consequently staggering.

2,195 children

worldwide die from diarrhea each day, with the disease the second-leading cause of death for children under 5, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The chronically distressed digestive system doesn’t absorb nutrients or medicines well. Underweight mothers give birth to underweight babies.

149 million

children worldwide under the age of 5 are affected by stunting, according to the World Health Organization in 2018. And all of the above and much, much more could be cured and eliminated by the installation and use of proper sanitation systems in slums, hamlets, rural villages and large cities across India.

Photo by Kristian Bertel


Donate to Sanitation Projects

For only $540, you will help reduce the risk of common diseases by providing a family with an outdoor toilet.


About Gospel for Asia

Gospel for Asia (GFA World) is a leading faith-based mission agency, helping national workers bring vital assistance and spiritual hope to millions across Asia, especially to those who have yet to hear about the love of God. In GFA’s latest yearly report, this included more than 70,000 sponsored children, free medical camps conducted in more than 1,200 villages and remote communities, over 4,800 clean water wells drilled, over 12,000 water filters installed, income-generating Christmas gifts for more than 260,000 needy families, and spiritual teaching available in 110 languages in 14 nations through radio ministry. For all the latest news, visit our Press Room at https://press.gfa.org/news.


Read the rest of Gospel for Asia’s Special Report: Fight Against Open Defecation Continues – Using Outdoor Toilets to Improve Sanitation Part 2

Learn more by reading these Special Reports from Gospel for Asia:


This Special Report originally appeared on gfa.org.

Read what Christian Leaders have to say about Gospel for Asia.

Click here, to read more blogs on Patheos from Gospel for Asia.

Learn more about Gospel for Asia: Facebook | YouTube | Instagram | LinkedIn | SourceWatch | Integrity | Lawsuit Update | 5 Distinctives | 6 Remarkable Facts | 10 Milestones | Media Room | Fighting Global Poverty | Endorsements | 40th Anniversary | Lawsuit Response |

Notable News about Gospel for Asia: FoxNews, ChristianPost, NYPost, MissionsBox

October 22, 2018

Wills Point, Texas – Gospel for Asia Special Report (GFA) – Discussing the troubling problem of the lack of toilets – basic sanitation, and open defecation for millions throughout the world.

What If You Didn’t Have a Toilet?

So I remind myself of toilet scenarios I do know about, then extrapolate some personal situations out to extreme what-ifs. Our home, in which we have lived for 38 years, has its own septic system. During that time, when we had extreme storms, the power would go out. This meant that no water could be pumped from our underground well, and this electric outage disabled our showers, our faucets and our toilets.

I used to store plastic bottles of water so when things went black we could brush our teeth, get dressed by candlelight (since there are no windows in any of our bathrooms), and—get this—flush our toilets. If the power did not come back on for a couple days, the frozen food thawed and an excess of detritus threatened to overflow the toilet basin.

A Squat Outdoor Toilet in Asia - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia
A well-cleaned squat toilet in Asia.

So I extrapolate—what if this happened all the time? What if sewer lines broke, became clogged and backed up regularly? What if I lived in poverty and there were no plumbers and no money and no electric company to call to fix our difficulties? What if I had to stand in line to use a communal latrine where flies buzzed, the floor was filthy, someone had evacuated due to acute diarrhea, and no one wanted to clean the mess? Now we’re getting closer.

In the refugee camps of the world, my travel companions and I held ridiculous discussions as to who had invented squat toilets—men or women? Someone shot a photo of me holding a rickety latrine toilet door upright while a woman co-worker trusted me to guard her privacy while she did her business inside. I am laughing, howling with laughter really, at a ridiculous situation, but this is, for most of the world, not a laughing matter.

Extrapolate. What if there was no female friend to hold the door? What if the floor around the squat toilet inside was filthy and you had to pull up your sari and rest the top half of the door against your forehead to keep it from falling? What if you believed that the little structures, dark and dank and scary inside, were really inhabited by demons?

Smelling an overflowing latrine from 20 feet away might persuade even a Westerner to think similarly, even if only metaphorically. In truth, I don’t like the few outhouses I’ve been forced to use in the States, nor many of the spooky national park public facilities, and I certainly avoid, if I can help it, those portable potties hauled in on trucks for public events or construction work sites.

When Your Septic Tank Problems Bring Embarrassment

My last attempt at toilet empathy. About 10 years after we had moved into our home in West Chicago, Illinois, our neighbor across the back yard knocked on the door and apologized for needing to complain about the standing, stinking water that was seeping into his property.

“I think you may be having trouble with your septic system,” he reported, embarrassed to have to point this out.

I called two septic companies. One told me I needed to have the whole septic field replaced; it would cost us $10,000. The other service man diagnosed another problem, but his estimate was about the same as the first. Then I went to the DuPage County Health Department and asked what septic firms they would recommend. I called Black Gold, whose reps complained about the septic map drawn by the original company that laid our field that was now leaking.

“Would the health department let us get away with a layout like this?” he asked his partner. They both obviously thought the field plan had been rendered by some septic idiot. Sure enough, after spending about 45 minutes prodding our three-quarters-of-an-acre lot with long poles, I was informed: “Lady, you don’t need no new septic field. The lines of what’s there ain’t connected to the tank.” His fee was $3,000. I made a garden out of the areas that were torn up by their repairs.

Many people in Asia draw water from smelly, vile ponds - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia
Vile, brown liquid that some in Asia count on as their water source.

So what if I lived somewhere that permanently seeped smelly, vile, germ-ridden, brown liquid? What if the river at the back of the land was a running sewer, and my grandchildren couldn’t romp and splash in it? (As one writer vividly describes: “In stagnant reaches, methane bubbles up through the grey-green water, and the stench of rotten eggs—hydrogen sulfide—wafts into homes.”) What if the fields were filled not only with animal feces but the excreta of some 300 neighbors?

You come up with your own empathy-building stories.

Communities Band Together to Improve Sanitation

A family in front of a GFA-provided outdoor toilet and sanitation facility - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia
A family in front of a GFA-provided local sanitation facility.

Prime Minister Modi and his teams are sold on community-led initiatives, and so should they be. Change works best when a whole population is committed to seeing it happen.

Elizabeth Royte wrote: “The Indian government is rewarding certified ODF villages by moving them to the front of the line for road or drinking-water improvements. It has launched an advertising campaign that exalts Swachh Bharat mascots, like the 106-year-old woman in Chhattisgarh state who sold seven goats to build two toilets. It has enlisted cricket and Bollywood stars to exhort people to use the new latrines.”

Community development often works best when it is exactly that: an idea that grows out of the mind of some visionary who lives within the locality that has a need, a visionary who is not only capable of strategic thinking but also feels empathy and who is moved by compassion by the people nearby—his or her neighbors. And when a whole community becomes involved in “cleaning up its act,” there are few powers on earth that can withstand such initiative.

Now what’s interesting about Gospel for Asia‘s stories surrounding sanitation is that it is the local pastor in the village, who out of concern and knowing that open defecation is a deadly disease-breeding potential, exercises his compassion to love his neighbors by being concerned about the availability of latrines.

This is an excerpt from one of Gospel for Asia (GFA)‘s stories called “Welcome to Their Toilet” that talks about how one community was forced to use the open fields to defecate because they had no other proper place.

The local GFA pastor, Vidur, understood the villagers’ struggle. He himself had been ministering in the area for more than 10 years. Knowing people’s lives were at risk whenever they used the fields as their toilet, he wished there were a way to help them.

Then he found out Gospel for Asia had started a program to promote sanitation in underprivileged areas. Excited about the opportunity to help his community, he asked his leaders to build four toilets in the village.

That’s when Janya and her husband, Lalan, gladly offered some of their land for one toilet.

In January 2013, when the villagers saw a concrete outhouse rise out of the dusty ground, they poured out their gratitude to Pastor Vidur and the church.

“[This] saved the lives of people from illness,” shared one villager.

Even the village leader expressed thanks. “[The church] is always concerned about the need of people and works hard for a brilliant life for the community,” he said.

What an extraordinary example of love in practical action.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.” —Luke 10:27

On the Brink of Innovations, Change in Sanitation

Toilet technology is on the edge of remarkable, cost-effective, ecologically friendly frontiers. They’re becoming self-cleaning and solar-powered. A solar-powered toilet that converts waste into charcoal that could then be used as fertilizer.

An indoor toilet that works like a garden composter, spinning the contents and reducing odor and the number of dangerous pathogens. Portable rickshaw toilets. A community bio-digester toilet designed to convert human waste into gases and manure. Once ideas begin flourishing, there is no limit to what can happen.

I’m banking on Prime Minister Modi’s ODF Campaign to be successful. The hardest pull of any new effort is most always at the beginning, but once new ideas start rolling, they gather momentum. Some of the new toilet technologies may become catalysts as well.

In addition, there are hundreds of international organizations working on sanitation solution. They understand that one size does not fit all the variables that make up the particulars in this vast discussion, but added all together, it is a prohibitive association with evidence of remarkable dedication.

“And when a whole community becomes involved in ‘cleaning up its act,’ there are few powers on earth that can withstand such initiative.”

A Canadian doctor, one of those “creative renegades” unhappy with the condition of the world and one whom I have come to admire and love, was appointed as a Provincial Health Officer in the highlands of Papua, New Guinea.

While making an aerial survey, he and his team discovered one village that was distinctly cleaner and healthier. Far below them was the evidence of what turned out to be a pastor with some basic health training who had taught his people those lessons, and the difference could be seen from the air. That one flight changed their lives. They began to search for a more integral way of ministering and soon began using and teaching a community health evangelism methodology, which had been developed in Africa.

Sometimes we get lost in the details on the ground. We need to stand back, take deep breaths and find some way to gather broader assessments—some kind of aerial view. Progress is being made; it’s just a little harder in some places than in others. I’m proud that Gospel for Asia is one of the players. Last year, GFA helped provide 10,512 toilets for needy communities throughout Asia.

Shout Out to Toilets!

Christianity has everything to do with sanitation. We serve a God who is expecting us to help restore the world He created to its original design. That is a world, among many other things, without rampaging diseases. One day, Scripture promises, it will be a world without death and suffering. So in this interim, let’s hear a shout out for all the toilets in the world!


Saving Lives at Risk from Open Defecation: Part 1 | Part 2

This article originally appeared on gfa.org

To read more on Patheos on the problem of open defecation, go here.

Go here to know more about Gospel for Asia: Youtube | Twitter | GFA Reports | My GFA | Instagram

For more information about this, click here.

October 21, 2018

Wills Point, Texas – GFA Special Report (Gospel for Asia) – Discussing the troubling problem of open defecation and the lack of basic sanitation for millions throughout the world.

Talking Openly About Open Defecation

Another key dilemma in this discussion—open defecation, hardly a dinner-table topic or a mission committee agenda item—is the fact that accessibility to toilets does not always indicate usage. Changing habits is mostly a matter of changing mindsets in the face of the stranglehold of deeply entrenched beliefs.

Elizabeth Royte, in a comprehensive August 2017 National Geographic Magazine article, reports visiting Parameswaran Iyer, India’s secretary of drinking water and sanitation, in 2016. A hand-numbered sign on his wall tracks progress.

“You see that?” he asks. “One hundred thousand is the number of villages that are ODF today.” (ODF is the acronym for open defecation free).

Royte reports working the internal math: “Just 540,000 to go, I note; three years before Modi’s deadline.”

Other players, including the World Bank, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (with $40 million dollars in prize money allocated toward innovative approaches to new toilet technologies), hundreds of concerned social entrepreneurs, engineers with altruistic motivations, East Asian water initiatives, and countless faith-based organizations are tackling the seemingly intractable worldwide dilemma of toilets, sanitation systems and sullied water.

What drives all this magnitude of interest, field research, consortiums and consultations on sanitation/water projects, awarding of grants and money prizes? Disease—plain and simple. Both waterborne and airborne.

“Some 1.5 million people die globally each year from polluted water diseases alone.”

Facing the Facts about Toilets, Open Defecation

Elizabeth Royte, who is a sanitation expert traveling widely and reporting extensively, summarizes that “Modi aims to build more than 100 million new toilets in rural areas alone by 2019.” But she notes that “deep-seated attitudes may present an even bigger barrier to improving sanitation than a lack of pipes and pits.”

That being said, let’s first look at the data regarding the state of toilets and open defecation in Asia. Then let’s examine what development organizations, sanitation technologies and mission groups, namely Gospel for Asia, are attempting in order to help Asia become ODF.

Starting with a global overview, key facts regarding sanitation highlighted by the World Health Organization are:

39%

of the people who make up the world population use managed sanitation not serving other households, with systems in place to safely dispose or treat excreta (2015).

2.3 billion

people worldwide still do not have basic sanitation facilities.

10%

of the population is thought to consume food irrigated by wastewater

892 million

people still defecate in the open.

280,000

deaths annually (estimated) are caused by sanitation deficient environments, which is linked to transmission of diseases such as cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid, polio, intestinal worms, schistosomiasis, and trachoma.

Now, while Modi has emphasized improved sanitation, it’s worthwhile to note that India has been struggling with these issues even before winning independence from Great Britain in 1947. In fact, Gandhi insisted, “Sanitation is more important than temples.”

Now, however, due to population growth, a conundrum exists: While the percentage that practice open defecation has dropped substantively, birth rates are creating an environment where more people live in geographic locations where fecal exposure is increasing, not decreasing.

  • Today, some 157 million urban dwellers—that would be 37 percent of the urban population—lack a safe and private toilet.
    • Even sewers are no guarantors of healthiness:
      • In the capitol city of Delhi, pipes are corroded; they ooze waste;
      • nearly a third of the booming city isn’t connected to underground lines.
    • Many latrines flush into open drains, and 4 percent—some 700,000—of this urban population still defecate outdoors.
    • Only 56 percent of the sewers are safely managed.
  • Flies carry disease from roadsides and open fields. Just one gram of feces can contain 100 million viruses, 1 million bacteria and 1,000 parasitic cysts. These can be absorbed through cuts in the flesh, the porous nature of skin itself, or by drinking unsafe water and eating contaminated foods.
  • Health figures are consequently staggering.
    • Some 315,000 children under the age of 5 die each year from diarrhea.
    • The chronically distressed digestive system doesn’t absorb nutrients or medicines well.
    • Underweight mothers give birth to underweight babies.
    • Worldwide, stunting affects an estimated 165 million children under the age of 5.
  • And all of the above and much, much more could be cured and eliminated by the installation and use of proper sanitation systems in slums, hamlets, rural villages and large cities across India.
Dirty water in Asia and India that needs sanitation - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia
In this part of the slums in Mumbai, India, many people live in close proximity in unhygienic surroundings—lacking facilities like toilets and proper drainage.

What Do the Sanitation Problems of the World Have to Do with Us?

For those of us with indoor flush toilets—and clean ones at that—with sewer lines that carry waste to treatment facilities, for those of us who live in places where waterborne and airborne bacteria are not a hazard, our response to the crisis of sanitation in the world is probably, So what? We don’t say this out loud, but like so many other dire extremes jockeying for our attention, it doesn’t really touch our lives.

However, in a majority of places, America, as has been noted, is starting to suffer from failing infrastructure. Most of us think of that in terms of roads and bridges needing repair or major overhauling, a transportation issue. Recently, reporters from the Chicago Tribune conducted an exposé of the high bills being charged for water in underserved neighborhoods around the city. Maywood residents in a western suburb pay one of the region’s highest water rates. This is simply because older pipes allow major seepage.

Of the 946 millions of gallons that Maywood bought from neighboring Melrose Park in 2016, some 367 million gallons, or 38.7 percent, never made it to taps, costing residents in an already cash-strapped population nearly $1.7 million more than residents would pay in other towns of similar size. And the poor are tapped for a disproportionate share of the bill as compared to what wealthier users in tonier neighborhoods pay. The tax rates of the poor do not allow for major infrastructure overhauls.

“What if I had to stand in line to use a communal latrine where flies buzzed, the floor was filthy, someone had evacuated due to acute diarrhea, and no one wanted to clean the mess? Now we’re getting closer.”

Water problems may be closer than we think. Cheryl Colopy in her article titled “How No-Flush Toilets Can Help Make a Healthier World” makes the point:

“In the United States, sewage treatment has not been a problem for the past half-century, but it could become one again as infrastructure ages and fails—especially if there is a lack of government money to replace it. In addition, certain regions of the U.S. are expected to experience water shortages as temperatures rise. New, water-saving, decentralized toilet technologies may need to be adopted not only in places like South Asia, but also in parts of the industrialized world.”

Indeed, we may be thinking about sanitation issues more in the near future than we ever thought plausible. Indeed, the burgeoning technologies used to solve defecation problems and to discover clean water solutions in the developing world may be solutions we also will seek not far down the road.

Women are prone to assault, disease runs rampant, and lives are at risk: all a result of using the bathroom outdoors.

Saving Lives at Risk from Open Defecation: Part 1 | Part 3

This article originally appeared on gfa.org

To read more on Patheos on the problem of open defecation, go here.

Go here to know more about Gospel for Asia: GFA.org | Facebook | Youtube | Twitter | GFA Reports

For more information about this, click here.

October 20, 2018

Wills Point, Texas – Gospel for Asia Special Report (GFA) – Discussing the troubling problem of open defecation and the lack of basic sanitation facilities for millions throughout the world.

Saving Lives at Risk from Open Defecation (Part 1) - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia
2.3 billion worldwide lack basic sanitation facilities and 892 million still defecate in the open, according to World Health Organization.
Karen Mains, author
Karen Burton Mains, author

For much of my adult life, it has been my privilege to hang out with the “renegades” of Christian missions, that relief-and-development crowd that rushes to help during natural disasters, struggles to alleviate the suffering and abasement of refugee displacement, and pays concerted attention to the everyday struggles of everyday living in the developing nations of the world.

The first trip I made around the world was at the invitation of Food for the Hungry, and I traveled with Larry Ward, the executive director at the time, and his wife, Lorraine. It was on this trip I became convinced this particular crew of crisis-ready, crisis-solving, crisis-adaptive humans was fueled solely by adrenaline (“When does he sleep?”).

The purpose of the trip was an international field survey with an emphasis on the refugee crisis in the world, which at that time in the 1980’s was the largest since World War II. We started in Hong Kong and ended seven weeks later in Kenya, Africa. My assignment was to observe with fresh eyes and to write about what I had seen.

The book I wrote, The Fragile Curtain, with the help of daily briefings from the U.S. State Department and the excellent international reporting of “The Christian Science Monitor” (as well as some generous coaching from a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper reporter) won a Christopher Award, a national prize for works that represent “the highest values of the human spirit.”

Eventually, I brought the accumulated exposure of my world travels—some 55 countries in all—and the learning I had gathered through journalism research and the actualities of dragging through camps and slums to the board table of Medical Ambassadors International (MAI), a global faith-based health organization.

The former international field director of MAI, now working to create a coalition of some 250 mission groups and development organizations implementing the MAI teaching methodology, made a statement I thought about for years:

“I never realized,” he said, “that I would eventually measure the impact of the Gospel by how many toilets had been built in a village.”

Women and girls are often at risk when open defecation - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia
Women and girls are often at risk when open defecation is the only option for relieving themselves. Thankfully, these precious faces can smile because a toilet facility was recently built in their village.

GFA’s Story: Fighting Open Defecation, Helping to Improve Sanitation in Asia

So what does Christianity have to do with the defecation problems of the world?

Gospel for Asia (GFA) is an organization close to the heart of my husband, David Mains, and to myself. We met K.P. Yohannan, GFA’s founder, when it was just an impelling vision in the heart of a young Indian man—one of those divine nudges that simply would not stop pushing at him. Since then, David has traveled to Asia at the invitation of Gospel for Asia (GFA) some eight times; I have visited Asia under their auspices once. We’ve watched as K.P.’s vision grew from a dream to an actuality with numbers beyond anything we could have considered possible.

GFA’s website tells its story, and its story is vast:

  • In 2016, some 82,000 impoverished children were fed, clothed and schooled;
  • 829 medical camps provided hundreds of people with free medical care and advice;
  • 10,512 latrines with dual-tank sanitation systems were constructed.
Family in Asia next to a sanitation project from Gospel for Asia - KP Yohannan
This family stands in front of a latrine or “squatty potty” that was installed by GFA-supported national workers.

Gospel for Asia (GFA) started building latrines in 2012, setting a goal of constructing some 15,000 concrete outhouses by 2016. Potable water, of course, travels hand in hand with sanitation, and in 2016, the ministry’s field partners constructed more than 6,822 “Jesus Wells” and distributed 14,886 BioSand water filters to purify drinking water. Touching vignettes on GFA’s website make the statistics personal.

“This saved the lives of people from illness,” stated one villager—and indeed, toilets, when and if they are used, do just that.

A village elder expressed thanks:

“The church is always concerned about the need of people and works hard for a brilliant life for the community.”

There, indeed, is a thread that runs through Gospel for Asia’s stories of toilets: The pastor of the church in this village or that hamlet seems to be the catalyst for health improvement.

Organizations Tackling the Open Defecation Sanitation Crisis

Matt Damon from water.org smiling about clean water - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia
Matt Damon, the founder of Water.org (photo credit Water.org)

Much of the world is in a war against the perils caused by inadequate or non-existent sanitation. People as diverse as Matt Damon, a Hollywood celebrity, award-winning actor and producer/screenwriter; and Narendra Modi, the current prime minister of India, are battling uphill against open defecation (in the sewers, in running streams, by the roadsides, in the fields and the forests, in garbage dumps).

Damon, driven by a desire to make a difference in solving extreme poverty, discovered that water and sanitation were the two basic foundations beneath much of what ails the world. Through his charity, Water.org, he and his business partner, Gary White, are using the microfinance template to provide loans for underserved people to connect to a service utility or to build a latrine for their homes. Some 5.5 million people have been impacted by his approach, and the group estimates they will reach another 2.5 million by the end of 2017.

Prime Minister Modi campaigned to end open defecation and build latrines for India - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia
Prime Minister Modi campaigned to end open defecation and build latrines for India. Photo by narendramodiofficial on Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Modi actually campaigned for office with the slogan “Toilets Before Temples.” Using Gandhi’s 150th birthday—October 2, 2019—as a goal, the Indian prime minister declared his intention to end open defecation in the country by that date. A campaign was framed, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission), and $40 billion was allotted for building latrines and changing mindsets, while the World Bank contributed loans totaling another $1.5 billion.

Another big player in the sanitation action is the United Nations, which in 2000 established Millennium Development Goals to be achieved by 2015. While many of these goals were reached (some statisticians conclude that world poverty was halved; others, of course, disagree), progress nevertheless was erratic—great success here and there with some signee countries having few or no results.

Whereas, as Matt Damon discovered, improving sanitation along with clean water, undergirds many of the problems included in what is now being reframed by the UN as Sustainable Development Goals, the target to halve the proportion of the population living without access to improved sanitation facilities by 2015 was missed by almost 700 million people.


Saving Lives at Risk from Open Defecation: Part 2 | Part 3

This article originally appeared on gfa.org

To read more on Patheos on the problem of open defecation, go here.

Go here to know more about Gospel for Asia: GFA | GFA.org | Facebook | Youtube | Twitter

For more information about this, click here.

January 12, 2018

“So what does Christianity have to do with the defecation problems of the world?”

That’s a question posed in Gospel for Asia (GFA) special report “Saving Lives at Risk from Open Defecation: Using Outdoor Toilets to Improve Sanitation.”

The report, written by bestselling author and speaker Karen Burton Mains, takes an in-depth—and, at times, personal—view concerning open defecation problems around the world and those specific to Asia.

slums in Asia, lacking facilities like toilets and proper drainage - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia
In this part of the slums in Asia, many people live in close proximity to unhygienic surroundings—lacking facilities like toilets and proper drainage.

Here’s an excerpt:

Talking Openly About Open Defecation

Another key dilemma in this discussion—open defecation, hardly a dinner-table topic or a mission committee agenda item—is the fact that accessibility to toilets does not always indicate usage. Changing habits is mostly a matter of changing mindsets in the face of the stranglehold of deeply entrenched beliefs.

Elizabeth Royte, in a comprehensive August 2017 National Geographic Magazine article, reports visiting Parameswaran Iyer, India’s secretary of drinking water and sanitation, in 2016. A hand-numbered sign on his wall tracks progress.

“You see that?” he asks. “One hundred thousand is the number of villages that are ODF today.” (ODF is the acronym for open defecation free).

Royte reports working the internal math: “Just 540,000 to go, I note; three years before Modi’s deadline.”

Other players, including the World Bank, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (with $40 million dollars in prize money allocated toward innovative approaches to new toilet technologies), hundreds of concerned social entrepreneurs, engineers with altruistic motivations, East Asian water initiatives, and countless faith-based organizations are tackling the seemingly intractable worldwide dilemma of toilets, sanitation systems and sullied water.

What drives all this magnitude of interest, field research, consortiums and consultations on sanitation/water projects, awarding of grants and money prizes? Disease—plain and simple. Both waterborne and airborne. Some 1.5 million people die globally each year from polluted water diseases alone.

Facing the Facts about Toilets

Elizabeth Royte, who is a sanitation expert traveling widely and reporting extensively, summarizes that “Indian PM Modi aims to build more than 100 million new toilets in rural areas alone by 2019.” But she notes that “deep-seated attitudes may present an even bigger barrier to improving sanitation than a lack of pipes and pits.”

That being said, let’s first look at the data regarding the state of toilets and open defecation in Asia. Then let’s examine what development organizations, sanitation technologies and mission groups, namely Gospel for Asia (GFA), are attempting in order to help Asia become ODF.

Starting with a global overview, key facts regarding sanitation highlighted by the World Health Organization are:

Facts

Mains, who has traveled extensively, visiting at least 55 countries, also gives some personal and quite humorous examples of experiencing some of the world’s sanitation problems.

In the refugee camps of the world, my travel companions and I held ridiculous discussions as to who had invented squat toilets—men or women? Someone shot a photo of me holding a rickety latrine toilet door upright while a woman co-worker trusted me to guard her privacy while she did her business inside. I am laughing, howling with laughter really, at a ridiculous situation, but this is, for most of the world, not a laughing matter.

Extrapolate. What if there was no female friend to hold your door? What if the floor around your squat toilet inside was filthy and you had to pull up your sari and rest the top half of the door against your forehead to keep it from falling? What if you believed that the little structures, dark and dank and scary inside, were really inhabited by demons?

Smelling an overflowing latrine from 20 feet away might persuade even a Westerner to think similarly, even if only metaphorically. In truth, I don’t like the few outhouses I’ve been forced to use in the States, nor many of the spooky national park public facilities, and I certainly avoid, if I can help it, those portable potties hauled in on trucks for public events or construction work sites.

A well-cleaned squat toilet - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia
A well-cleaned squat toilet in Asia.

Now, while Modi has emphasized improved sanitation, it’s worthwhile to note that India has been struggling with these issues even before winning independence from Great Britain in 1947. In fact, Gandhi insisted, “Sanitation is more important than temples.” Now, however, due to population growth, a conundrum exists: While the percentage that practice open defecation has dropped substantively, birth rates are creating an environment where more people live in geographic locations where fecal exposure is increasing, not decreasing.

  • Today, some 157 million urban dwellers—that would be 37 percent of the urban population—lack a safe and private toilet.
  • Some 315,000 children under the age of 5 die each year from diarrhea. Underweight impoverished mothers give birth to underweight babies. Worldwide, stunting affects an estimated 165 million children under the age of 5.
  • And all of the above and much, much more could be cured and eliminated by the installation and use of proper sanitation systems in slums, hamlets, rural villages and large cities across India and Asia.

Eventually, I brought the accumulated exposure of my world travels—some 55 countries in all—and the learning I had gathered through journalism research and the actualities of dragging through camps and slums to the board table of Medical Ambassadors International (MAI), a global faith-based health organization.

The former international field director of MAI, now working to create a coalition of some 250 mission groups and development organizations implementing the MAI teaching methodology, made a statement I thought about for years.

“I never realized,” he said, “that I would eventually measure the impact of the Gospel by how many toilets had been built in a village.”

Want to read more of what Mains discovered about saving lives at risk of open defecation? Gospel for Asia (GFAwebsite has the complete article. After reading it, let us know what you think or if you’ve ever been in a situation where you had to…defecate in the open.

=====

For more blogs on Patheos from Gospel for Asia, go here.

Go here to know more about Gospel for Asia: GFA.net | Wiki | Flickr

 For more information about this, click here.

June 3, 2022

WILLS POINT, TX – Gospel for Asia (GFA World and affiliates like Gospel for Asia Canada) founded by KP Yohannan, issued a Special Report on the ugly truths of world hunger: “Scandal of Starvation” — world hunger is a long-term social and global crisis, directly or indirectly causing around 9 million deaths each year – more than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.

Food loss / waste infographic
Hunger remains one of the most urgent and challenging problems of our globe, yet the world is producing more than enough food. Recovering just half of what is lost or wasted could feed the world alone. The FAO-led Save Food initiative is working to reduce food loss and waste in both the developing and the industrialized world. Photo by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

The War on Waste

Thankfully, efforts are being made to cut the terrible waste. The World Union of Wholesale Markets, a nonprofit group representing more than 150 wholesale markets around the world, has committed to new collaboration with the U.N.-FAO to improve distribution. Only a fraction of the food business world may be involved in the initiative, but it’s a start.

Korger woman employee attending produce section
Will Kroger’s latest announcement regarding its Pickuliar Picks brand spur more retailers to step up and make an effort to minimize food waste? Photo by Kroger

Meanwhile, big businesses are recognizing the need to be better stewards. At a special gathering on reducing loss hosted by the International Food Policy Institute, Kroger executive Denise Osterhues spoke of her company’s steps in that area. The senior director for corporate affairs told how Kroger had begun marking down red-bagged produce when it neared expiration date, introduced a “Pickuliar Picks” line of imperfect produce, and developed clearer date labeling to help consumers make the most of their food purchases.

Like a growing number of other food retailers and servers, Kroger also donates surplus and past-date supplies to charitable organizations for redistribution. It gave away 90 million pounds of produce in 2018.

“It is a cruel, unjust and paradoxical reality that, today, there is food for everyone, and yet not everyone has access to it, and that in some areas of the world food is wasted, discarded and consumed in excess …”
Pope Francis, World Food Day 2019

Many different charitable organizations are eager to make use of produce that doesn’t get sold for one reason or another. In 2018, the 800 members of the Global FoodBanking Network alone distributed around half a million tons of food and grocery products.

At a plant in Sultana, in the heart of California’s breadbasket San Joaquin Valley, Gleanings for the Hungry recycles bruised and misshapen fruits and vegetables from growers in the area for shipping around the world. This ministry of Youth With a Mission (YWAM) takes its name from the directive in Leviticus 19 that the Israelites should not reap to the edges of their field, but leave the “gleanings” for the poor to gather up. For the last 40 years, Gleanings for the Hungry has processed and distributed millions of pounds of produce through partner organizations.

UglyFood co-founders
UglyFood co-founders divert fresh produce waste away from incineration plants and landfills by transforming it instead into healthy and delectable food products. Photo by UglyFood

In Singapore, Pei Shan co-founded Ugly Food to make use of the produce that shoppers ignore because it doesn’t look nice enough. Her company turns the rejected items into healthy juices, ice cream bars, and fruit teas.

“Ultimately, we want our business to create a conversation about ‘cosmetic filtering’ and to help others rethink what they consider as waste,” she says.

Feeding India’s Magic Wheels program is a fleet of trucks that collects unused food from canteens, wedding receptions, and other events for redistribution. The vehicles are equipped with temperature-controlled insulated boxes to keep the food fresh, and donors are given a liability release form to protect them. Feeding India has also set up Happy Fridges in residential and public spaces in 25 cities. The refrigerators are stocked free by donors, and available for anyone to come and take what they want, free of charge.

Launched in Delhi in 2014, the Robin Hood Army, a zero-funds organization that relies on volunteers to collect and distribute leftover food from restaurants and other businesses, has since served more than 26.5 million meals in more than 150 cities across a dozen countries.

Undernourishment and chronic hunger worldwide
Undernourishment and chronic hunger represent the inability of persons to consume enough food sufficient to meet dietary energy requirements. Photo by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

How Hunger Harms the Human Body

Nutrition is about more than just having enough to eat, though. It’s having the right things to eat. Sometimes a body may be seemingly well-fed, but actually starving of the nutrients it really needs.

More than 20 million babies born in 2015 had problematically low birthweight due to a lack of proper nutrition.That is why, though it seems almost contradictory, there has been an alarming rise in obesity, including in low-income countries in parts of sub-Saharan Africa and South and East Asia. A U.N. study in Latin America and the Caribbean found that the percentage of people there with obesity had tripled since 1975, while hunger increased 11 percent in the last four years.

As a complex machine, the human body needs high-grade fuel to run well. Without it, systems start to break down. In parts of the world where food is scarce or of poor quality, the lack of vital vitamins and minerals has a serious impact.

Insufficient iron, a condition often made worse by malaria and other infectious diseases, makes pregnancy more risky and impairs physical and cognitive development. Lack of vitamin A can lower a person’s resistance to disease, impair growth in children and cause blindness. Lack of iodine is one of the major causes of reduced cognitive development in children.

All this lack of proper nutrition poses an especially severe threat to pregnant women and newborn babies: One in seven of 2015’s live deliveries—more than 20 million babies—had a problematically low birthweight.

As with all big social issues, hunger issues are complex.
Hunger is inextricably linked to poverty, which in turn can’t be separated from war, political unrest,
and prejudice. Millions starve because of others’
actions and inactions, without even taking
into account natural disasters.

A good diet is especially crucial in the first three years, when young brains and bodies are developing. Ironically, malnutrition is linked to a higher risk of being overweight and chronic diseases like diabetes in later life.

An article by Lauren Weber graphically illustrated the importance of a good diet’s importance. A photograph featured in the article showed a dramatic difference between two five-year-olds born on the same day in Madagascar: Miranto, a good student, stood more than a head taller than Sitraka, who was unable to attend school because he hadn’t yet learned to speak properly and had trouble being still for any length of time. The difference? Their diet.

Miranto and Sitraka standing beside each other, holding hands.
Miranto and Sitraka were born on the same day in the same village in Madagascar, but Sitraka is chronically malnourished which in turn has stunted his growth and hampered his ability to communicate, sit, or stand for any length of time. © UNICEF/UN025900/MICHEL

Sitraka was a victim of “stunting,” low height for age because of chronic nutrient deficiency. Like him, “most chronically malnourished children are shorter than their healthier peers,” she states.

In 2017, the UN found almost 151 million children under age 5 were too short for their age due to malnutrition. Africa and Asia accounted for 39 percent and 55 percent of all stunted children, respectively. Nearly 38 percent of children under 5 in India were found to be stunted in 2018, accounting for a third of the world’s total. The countries with the next-highest numbers were Nigeria and Pakistan.

Such children’s immune systems are weaker, “leaving them more susceptible to repeated infections. And their brains do not develop fully, leading to lower IQs and a decrease in lifetime productivity” said Weber.

“Wasting,” meanwhile, is evidenced by low body weight for age, with the associated reduced muscle mass leaving children at greater risk of death from what might otherwise be minor infections. In 2017, one in ten children in Asia was underweight for their age, compared to just one in 100 in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Children eating food
A healthy, nutritious meal once each day is just one of the many benefits children receive while enrolled in GFA’s Bridge of Hope Program, which supports tens of thousands of kids throughout Asia.

Hunger’s Hidden Costs

The high cost of hunger might be seen better by evaluating its absence.

“In adulthood, per capita income of individuals who were not stunted at two years is higher compared to individuals who were stunted at two years,” said the U.N. “This increase comes about through the impact of improved nutrition on income through higher schooling and better cognitive skills. In fact, a reduction in global levels of stunting by 20 percent would represent a rise in income of 11 percent.”

Mother with children inside house
Being a widow in South Asia is not easy—in order to provide for their children, many widows are forced to beg on the streets or turn to prostitution.

Hunger doesn’t just endanger people’s physical and intellectual development. It can damage their souls as well as their organs.

After visiting Zimbabwe, a country ravaged by drought and a sluggish economy, Hilal Elver, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, noted some other effects of food scarcity.

“The most vulnerable segments of society, including the elderly, children and women, are forced to rely upon coping mechanisms such as, school dropout, early marriage, and sex trade to obtain food, behavioral patterns that often are accompanied by domestic violence,” she said. “This kind of struggle for subsistence affects their physical well-being and self-respect. It creates behavior and conditions that violate their most fundamental human rights.”

In common with other big social issues, it’s women and children who are often worst affected by hunger. Young women need iron-rich food to replenish what’s lost during menstruation, or they will face anemia, which can lead to heightened incidence of maternal deaths and stillbirths. A World Food Programme (WFP) study found 15- to 19-year-old girls in one part of Uganda had anemia rates two to three times higher than the national average.

Malnutrition statistics of children worldwide
Photo by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

The WFP report urged making greater efforts to keep adolescent girls in school and provide them with nutritious diets. A separate study by the organization found multiple benefits from school feeding programs in Indonesia. Enrollment, attendance, and understanding went up, while drop-out rates fell. The benefits went beyond the individual students and their futures, however.

Free school meals made limited household money available for other needs, which reduced the pressure on keeping kids away from school to help around the home or earn income. The study concluded that for every dollar invested in the feeding program there would be a five-fold return to the economy over the lifetime of each beneficiary.

As with all big social issues, hunger issues are complex. Hunger is inextricably linked to poverty, which in turn can’t be separated from war, political unrest, and prejudice. Millions starve because of others’ actions and inactions, without even taking into account natural disasters.

Free meals given out to children at the GFA Bridge of Hope center
Free school meals at Bridge of Hope make limited household money available for other needs, which reduces the pressure on keeping kids away from school to help around the home or earn income.

Malnutrition isn’t just a result of not having enough to eat, or even not having enough of the right things to eat. World Hunger notes that in many parts of Asia, “poor and insufficient sanitation and hygiene practices can increase the spread of disease and infection.” Two central sanitation issues contribute to up to half the cases of child malnourishment: the lack of access to clean water, and the presence of open defecation, which is still a problem in many parts of India. The elimination of the practice has been sought through a large-scale push of education and construction of community toilets undertaken by India’s government and non-profit groups such as Gospel for Asia (GFA).

In Ethiopia, a focus on ending open defecation helped to drastically improve nutrition levels and cut child stunting almost in half between 2000 and 2014, though the reduced 40 percent level remains “unacceptably high.”

The downward spiral of inadequate diet and poor sanitation and hygiene has been spotlighted in a United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund report: “Diarrhea or infectious disease can cause loss of micronutrients or inhibit consumption of sufficient nutritional foods, weakening an individual to become more susceptible to severe illness, and thus exacerbating the micronutrient deficiency.”


Give Food, Aid to Victims of Hunger & Starvation

Learn about how to bring practical help in Jesus’ name to the suffering and needy, relieving the burdened, rescuing the endangered and revealing God’s compassion to the people of Asia through Gospel for Asia Compassion Services.


Read the rest of Gospel for Asia’s Special Report on The Scandal of Starvation in a World of Plenty: World Hunger’s Ugly Truths Revealed — Part 1, Part 3

This Special Report originally appeared on gfa.org.

Read another Special Report from Gospel for Asia on Poverty: Public Enemy #1 – Eliminating Extreme Poverty Worldwide is Possible, But Not Inevitable.

Learn more by reading this special report from Gospel for Asia: Solutions to Poverty-Line Problems of the Poor & Impoverished — Education’s Impact on Extreme Poverty Eradication.


Click here, to read more blogs on Patheos from Gospel for Asia.

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February 22, 2022

WILLS POINT, TX – Gospel for Asia (GFA World) founded by K.P. Yohannan, which inspired numerous charities like Gospel for Asia Canada, to assist the poor and deprived worldwide – Discussing Gospel for Asia (GFA) Pastor Rapoto and his ministry to a village in systemic poverty, and the gift of toilets that helped opened their hearts to God’s love and joy.

GFA World Toilets: Through the gift of 10 new sanitation facilities (one of which is pictured), a village experienced the gift of God’s love.
Through the gift of 10 new sanitation facilities (one of which is pictured), a village experienced the gift of God’s love.

Pastor Rapoto served a small church of 68 believers, conducting Sunday services, prayer meetings, Sunday school and Women’s Fellowship ministries. Twice a month, he would visit a particular village nearby. Though the villagers followed the traditional religious traditions, Pastor Rapoto had faith that God would enable these people to experience God’s love for themselves.

Villagers in Need

Gospel for Asia (GFA) Pastor Rapoto served in this village for eight years before seeing any fruit from his labor. His heart broke for them and their difficult situations: Most of the villagers earned only a meager income from working in the rice paddy fields, generating barely enough money to survive. They would pray to their gods for protection and prosperity, but their situations never improved.

The village did not have proper sanitation facilities, and many residents were falling ill with diseases like typhoid fever, malaria and cerebral malaria. To make matters worse, because of the systemic poverty in the village, the families of those falling sick could not afford treatment.

A Village’s Heart Opened Through GFA World Toilets

Pastor Rapoto knew the struggles of the people living in this village and submitted applications on their behalf for 10 toilets to be installed in the village. Upon hearing the news and receiving the toilets, the villagers were overjoyed!

With these new toilets, they did not have to worry about using the bathroom during the night and in the rainy seasons. Using the bathroom was once dangerous and uncomfortable for the villagers, but thanks to the new toilets, their health conditions began improving, and they experienced just how much God loved and cared for them.

Their hearts opened to what Pastor Rapoto had to say, and they even began asking him to pray for them in their times of need. Through a simple toilet, God enabled these villagers to experience his love and receive his joy.


Read how the gift of a bicycle increased Shakurah’s faith.

*Names of people and places may have been changed for privacy and security reasons. Images are Gospel for Asia World stock photos used for representation purposes and are not the actual person/location, unless otherwise noted.


Source: Gospel for Asia Field Reports & Updates, Toilets Enable a Village to Experience God’s Love

Learn how to help protect people’s health, prevent diseases and help cure illnesses through donating towards Medical Camps, Mosquito Nets and constructing Outdoor Toilets.

Learn more by reading this GFA World Special Report: Taking the Toilet Challenge – Resolving Open Defecation Continues to Confound the World

Read more on Toilets and Open Defecation on Patheos from Gospel for Asia.

September 13, 2021

WILLS POINT, TX – GFA World (Gospel for Asia) founded by K.P. Yohannan, whose heart to love and help the poor has inspired numerous charities like GFA World Canada, to serve the deprived and downcast worldwide, issued this second part of a Special Report update on Taking the Toilet Challenge, where resolving Open Defecation continues to confound the world.

GFA World (Gospel for Asia, founded by KP Yohannan) Report Part 2 - Taking the Toilet Challenge, resolving Open Defecation continues to confound the world.
In West Bengal, a local Gospel for Asia (GFA World) pastor who identified needs of people in his community, including this woman and her child, was able to facilitate the construction of low-cost outdoor toilet to provide a safe, sanitary facility for her family. Gospel for Asia (GFA World) has helped to construct over 32,000 toilets to date in remote, impoverished communities throughout South Asia.

Open Defecation Still Persists Worldwide, Even in America

While places like South Asia, Nigeria and Indonesia are noted for problems with open defecation, this poor health habit exists worldwide. In late 2019, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said 15.5 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean are forced to practice open defecation. Calling it an “unhealthy practice,” PAHO official Marco Espinal said, “Improving access to water and sanitation through multisectoral policies and actions is critical to prevent disease and save lives.”8

After attending the toilet expo in China, NPR reporter Katrina Yu noted that toilet innovations may be a hard sell in other countries.

Katrina Yu
Katrina Yu, NPR reporter

Photo by Katrina Yu, Facebook

“Sanitation just isn’t sexy,” Yu wrote. “In fact, it stinks. According to the World Health Organization, governments, including many of those in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, often neglect to consider safe sanitation when drawing up budgets and policies. ‘To have any hope of solving sanitation problems,’ said [Jim Yong] Kim of the World Bank, ‘we have to break taboos and get over our discomfort in talking about poop.’”9

The public declarations against open defecation stretch back for two decades. The Singapore-based World Toilet Association established its special day in 2001, with the United Nations General Assembly officially declaring November 19 as World Toilet Day in 2013. The observance aims to inform, engage and inspire people to achieve the goal of ensuring the availability of clean water and sanitation for all by 2030.

15.5 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean are forced to practice open defecation.Yet as the UN and numerous governments, non-profits and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) work to eliminate the problem, it even exists on the streets of prosperous America. An October 2019 report by Environmental Justice said without sanitation when and where it is needed, the human right to sanitation for the homeless population has not been realized, leaving valid concerns about the risks of infectious disease transmission.

“The experience of Street Medicine physicians has yielded significant insight into how and why people experiencing homelessness resort to open defecation: the lack of public resources, perceptions about public toilets and the feelings of being unwelcome at them, concerns about safety, and physical and mental illness—including addiction—are all factors that contribute to OD,” the report said.10

Mother and children outside outdoor toilet
A family in Maharashtra received this low-cost outdoor toilet as recipients of GFA World’s Christmas Catalog campaign to supply safe, private sanitation facilities to impoverished communities through South Asia.

The concerns raised by lack of access to sustainable sanitation and proper handwashing facilities have taken on new importance during the COVID-19 outbreak that engulfed the world in 2020. A report late last year from the World Bank placed the global costs of inadequate sanitation at an estimated $260 billion.

“Even before the COVID outbreak, our research conducted in 18 countries around the world showed that it’s poor children who suffer the most from inadequate sanitation,” said a summary issued on last November’s World Toilet Day. “Intestinal diseases related to poor sanitation, along with malnutrition and infections, contribute to stunting—one of the most serious and irreversible developmental problems facing children and impacting their future livelihoods as productive adults. In many countries, poor sanitation catalyzes a vicious cycle of poverty.”11

Cartoon drawing of do's and don't - Don't open defecate; Do use toilet
Children in India supported by Gospel for Asia (GFA World) sponsors also participated in India’s five-year-long Swachh Barat Abhiyan (“Clean India”) campaign by drawing images like these to emphasize the basic message.

Long-term Progress is Producing Slow but Steady Results

Seattle Parks comfort stations
In addition to 128 comfort stations, Seattle Public Utilities has deployed 14 toilets and handwashing stations around Seattle to help the most vulnerable in their community stay healthy through these shelter and hygiene centers. Photo by SEA Mayor’s Office, Twitter

Yet, in spite of such gloomy realities, there has been long-term progress in the battle. Between 2000 and 2017, the number of people practicing OD was reduced from 1.3 billion to around 670 million, or 9 percent of the world’s population.12 The UNICEF South Asia Progress Report for 2018–2021 said the proportion of people practicing OD fell from 65 percent to 34 percent in the region as a whole, with India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan all achieving more than 30 percent reductions since 1990.13 There is a financial advantage to toilet installation: the World Health Organization estimates a return of $5.50 for every dollar spent on sanitation.14

Improvements have been steadily moving in the right direction, says one report: “The global population using safely managed sanitation services increased from 28 percent in 2000 to 45 percent in 2017, with the greatest increases occurring in Latin America and the Caribbean, sub-Saharan Africa, and East and South-East Asia. In the period from 2000-2017, 2.1 billion people across the globe gained access to at least basic services and the population lacking basic services decreased from 2.7 billion to 2 billion.”15

More Direct Aid Needed to Sustain Progress

Woman and her child in Laos in front of an outdoor toilet
Ms Hing, 31, and her 4-year-old daughter, Than, stand outside their new latrine installed by UNICEF and partners in Namdeau village, Bolikhamxay province, Laos, where 38 percent of households have no sanitation facilities at all. Photo by UNICEF USA, Saving Lives, One Toilet at a Time

Amid these encouraging developments, though, a reality remains: As of 2020 only one in five countries with greater than 1 percent OD reported being on track to achieve near elimination of it among the poorest fifth of rural populations by 2030.16 That and the still-high numbers of OD mean direct aid is still vital in many regions of the world.

Last year, UNICEF helped nearly 19 million people gain access to safe drinking water and 10.8 million with basic sanitation. Among them were residents of Cote d’Ivoire on the western coast of Africa, where less than 10 percent of people living in rural areas have access to clean, functional toilets. One woman who—along with her neighbors—used to defecate outdoors said that it was not only dangerous but not hygienic. While sharing her toilet with those nearby, she adds, “When they’re done, they have to clean it. I want to keep my toilet nice and clean.”17

Another woman in a village in Laos – Ms Hing – said, “I have a new toilet, and I don’t need to go to the bush anymore.”18

5,428 toilets installed in disadvantaged communities in 2019 alone.GFA World is another NGO working to eliminate open defecation. In 2019, GFA installed more than 5,200 toilets in needy communities. That boosted its cumulative total to more than 32,000 toilets installed, built in some of the world’s most underdeveloped areas.

While going to the bathroom is a privilege those in affluent societies often take for granted, for those living in out-of-the-way places, a toilet is one of the best gifts they can receive.

One example is a man named Laal and his wife, who live with four of their five children and their daughter-in-law. They are one of only three families still living in their village; many have moved away because of isolation and the lack of basic facilities, including a sanitary outhouse. The construction of a sanitation facility, facilitated by two Gospel for Asia (GFA) workers from a nearby community, literally changed their lives. Not only did they benefit from the health advantages of their new toilet, but they also established a new circle of friendships in the neighboring community.19

Family standing outside of Outdoor Toilets
The installation of an outdoor sanitation facility, like this toilet from GFA World, proved to be, in numerous ways, a life-changing blessing for Laal’s family in South Asia.

In another, more densely, populated area with 1,600 families spread over eight villages, the majority of families still live in poverty. With most of their money going for survival, it leaves little for anything else, including hygiene or basic sanitation facilities. Gospel for Asia (GFA) workers came to their aid, collecting supplies and manpower needed to install facilities. More than 250 of the families received not only a toilet but instruction in their proper use and cleaning to keep people safe from disease.

“All the beneficiaries were ecstatic at the gift,” reported a Gospel for Asia (GFA) worker. “The women were especially happy; they no longer needed to put themselves in danger every time they needed to use the toilet. They finally had a safe place to privately relieve themselves. No more would they need to venture out into the fields to do so.”20

Hopefully, many more such reports will surface in the months and years to come.

If you’d like to assist in providing outdoor toilets for underserved communities around the world, connect with GFA World to make a donation. Your contribution can be a life-changing one for many families that live in a community without proper sanitation, by providing them with safety from disease and dignity through privacy. And you will feel good to have made a contribution that helps families in developing nations without access to things we can take for granted.


Donate to Sanitation Projects »

Safe, sanitary outdoor toilets typically cost around $540, to build in Asia, and benefit multiple families in remote, impoverished communities. You can help provide one for a needy village, by donating a portion of the construction costs through GFA World.


Read the rest of this Gospel for Asia – Transforming Communities (GFA World) Special Report: Taking The Toilet Challenge  Part 1


About GFA World

Gospel for Asia (GFA World) is a leading faith-based global mission agency, helping national workers bring vital assistance and spiritual hope to millions across the world, especially in Asia and Africa, and sharing the love of God. In GFA World’s latest yearly report, this included thousands of community development projects that benefit downtrodden families and their children, free medical camps conducted in more than 1,200 villages and remote communities, over 4,800 clean water wells drilled, over 12,000 water filters installed, income-generating Christmas gifts for more than 260,000 needy families, and teaching providing hope and encouragement available in 110 languages in 14 nations through radio ministry. GFA World expects to launch programs in numerous African nations, starting with compassion projects in Rwanda. For all the latest news, visit our Press Room at https://press.gfa.org/news.


Read more blogs on GFA World, Toilet CrisisPoverty and Open Defecation on Patheos from Gospel for Asia.

Learn more by reading this Special Report from Gospel for Asia: Fight Against Open Defecation Continues — Using Outdoor Toilets to Improve Sanitation


Learn more about Gospel for Asia: Facebook | YouTube | Instagram | LinkedIn | SourceWatch | Integrity | Lawsuit Update | 5 Distinctives | 6 Remarkable Facts | 10 Milestones | Media Room | Malaria Amid COVID 19 | Endorsements | 40th Anniversary | Lawsuit Response | International Offices | Missionary and Child Sponsorship | Transforming Communities through God’s Love

Notable News about Gospel for Asia: FoxNews, ChristianPost, NYPost, MissionsBox

Read what 25 Christian Leaders are affirming about GFA World.

This Special Report originally appeared on gfa.org.

September 10, 2021

WILLS POINT, TX – GFA World (Gospel for Asia) founded by K.P. Yohannan, whose heart to love and help the poor has inspired numerous charities like GFA World Canada, to serve the deprived and downcast worldwide, issued this first part of a Special Report update on Taking the Toilet Challenge, where resolving Open Defecation continues to confound the world.

GFA World (Gospel for Asia, founded by KP Yohannan) - Taking the Toilet Challenge, resolving Open Defecation continues to confound the world.

In a previous special report entitled “Fight Against Open Defecation Continues,” we discussed the need for a caring response from the world to the problem of open defecation (OD) —a worldwide health crisis. In this report, I highlight ongoing long-term progress, while also contrasting the continuing challenges this issue presents to much of the developing world.

Why are Bill and Melinda Gates Spending $200 Million on Toilets?

Ravi V. Bellamkonda
Prof. Ravi V. Bellamkonda, “Advancing technologies for public health…” Photo by Duke University,

Pratt School of Engineering

In regard to government funding and foundation grants, the $4.5 million awarded to Duke University last November represented a modest sum. Still, the stipend for Duke’s Center for Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Infectious Disease (WaSH-AID) represented another small step in reducing open defecation by furthering testing of “reinvented toilets” and other hygienic technologies in the world’s neediest areas.

“We are grateful for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s investment in our (center) to lead collaboration with experts at Duke, across the industry and around the world to address this critical societal challenge,” said Ravi V. Bellamkonda, dean of the university’s school of engineering. “Advancing technologies for public health is particularly germane to control the spread of preventable diseases, and in this case also a fundamental human right—dignity.”1

Symbolically, the award came on the eve of the tenth anniversary of the foundation’s “Reinvent the Toilet” challenge, which asked researchers to devise toilets that can sanitize human waste with no water, electricity, sewer or septic system. The waste treatment goals include cleaning the waste and reclaiming water to safe drinking standards and harvesting nutrients for other uses. That can be a game-changer for those living without sanitation.

The WaSH-AID Team
Duke’s WaSH-AID team focuses on the development of onsite waste treatment solutions to meet the needs of resource-constrained environments in many disadvantaged communities around the world, but also in parts of the United States, including North Carolina. Photo by Duke University, Center for WaSH-AID

About halfway into this initiative, one inventor produced a system called the Omni Processor. Although technically not a toilet, the Omni is an off-the-grid fecal sludge treatment plant that outputs purified water and may one day also produce electricity. A working prototype has been operating in Dakar, Senegal, in Africa, for a few years, with the latest version licensed to companies in countries including the U.S. and China.2 Project director Brian Arbogast believes the technology will eventually influence sanitation in the developed world, such as green buildings, septic systems and off-the-grid cabins.

After spending a day at the foundation’s office in early 2019, a Business Insider reporter waxed enthusiastically about the toilet technology and other initiatives addressing such problems as extreme poverty, child mortality and malaria: “Hearing about their work was inspiring and gave me hope for the future …” wrote Julie Bort. “And the reason is simple. These people are taking on some of the world’s hairiest, most complex and seemingly intractable problems. And they are winning.”3

Family in front of outdoor toilets built through GFA World donations
Some of the best solutions for communities in need of low-cost sanitation are just simple outdoor toilets like these built by Gospel for Asia (GFA World) to serve this entire snake charmer village in Uttar Pradesh.

A Formidable Problem: High-Tech or Low-Tech Solutions?

Not everyone is as impressed with the foundation’s efforts. Two years after the initiative’s unveiling, an environmental engineer whose business focuses on developing low-cost toilets said communities that desperately need sanitation will be unable to afford the advanced technology promoted by the initiatives.

We “should be investing more in low-tech rather than high-tech toilets,” said Jason Kass, founder of Toilets for People. “But high-tech solutions and research projects are sexier and more eye-catching, so they are more interesting for universities.”4

The fact that in its first seven years the Gates Foundation invested $200 million in the toilet challenge demonstrates the formidable nature of ending open defecation. Yet it is a battle that must be waged.

Open defecation (OD)

is a disease-producing practice that contaminates drinking water and spreads diseases such as cholera, dysentery and diarrhea, which is particularly fatal among children. The incidence of such disease can disrupt young people’s education. In addition, females who engage in open defecation are more vulnerable to sexual violence.

The problem has generated widespread responses, such as India’s five-year-long Swachh Barat Abhiyan (“Clean India”) campaign that installed 110 million latrines by October 2019, with accompanying claims of success by Prime Minister Narenda Modi.

32,000 total toilets installed to date in impoverished and remote locations all across South Asia.One of the NGOs helping PM Modi in this campaign is GFA World, which has worked tirelessly to help install over 32,000 toilets to date in some of the most remote and difficult-to-reach locations across South Asia..

In 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping declared a “Toilet Revolution,” calling on local governments to improve sanitation in hopes of attracting more tourism since a bad “toilet landscape” had harmed the Asian giant’s image.5

Young boy practifing open defecation
Open defecation is still a problem in Nigeria where over 46 million people defecate in the open and over 120 million people do not have a decent toilet. Photo by WaterAid Nigeria, Twitter

Not coincidentally, in November 2018 the city of Beijing played host to the “Reinvented Toilet Expo,” which Gates projects could create a $6billion-a-year market by 2030. Kinya Seto, the president of Japanese exhibitor LIXIL, said innovative companies have a golden opportunity to do well by doing good: “We can help jump-start a new era of sanitation for the 21st century by developing solutions that can leapfrog today’s existing infrastructure, functioning anywhere and everywhere.”6

The latest nation to attack open defecation is Nigeria, where fewer than half the households have their own toilet. In 2016, the government launched an action plan aiming to end the practice by 2025 by providing equitable access to water, sanitation and hygiene services, and strengthening community approaches. However, three years later the government had failed to release funding for the initiative. In November 2018, with parts of the country facing high levels of water-borne diseases, President Muhammadu Buhari declared a state of emergency.7

Two women and child outside of outdoor toilet
In Dimbroko, Cote d’Ivoire, Habitat for Humanity implemented a community-led pilot project to end open defecation. Habitat successfully worked with the government, private sector and community representatives to create sanitation facilities and promote proper hygiene practices. Photo by Habitat for Humanity, Ending Open Defecation in Cote d’Ivoire

Donate to Sanitation Projects »

Safe, sanitary outdoor toilets typically cost around $540, to build in Asia, and benefit multiple families in remote, impoverished communities. You can help provide one for a needy village, by donating a portion of the construction costs through Gospel for Asia (GFA World).


Read the rest of this Gospel for Asia – Transforming Communities (GFA World) Special Report: Taking The Toilet Challenge  Part 2


About GFA World

Gospel for Asia (GFA World) is a leading faith-based global mission agency, helping national workers bring vital assistance and spiritual hope to millions across the world, especially in Asia and Africa, and sharing the love of God. In GFA World’s latest yearly report, this included thousands of community development projects that benefit downtrodden families and their children, free medical camps conducted in more than 1,200 villages and remote communities, over 4,800 clean water wells drilled, over 12,000 water filters installed, income-generating Christmas gifts for more than 260,000 needy families, and teaching providing hope and encouragement available in 110 languages in 14 nations through radio ministry. GFA World expects to launch programs in numerous African nations, starting with compassion projects in Rwanda. For all the latest news, visit our Press Room at https://press.gfa.org/news.


Read more blogs on GFA World, Toilet CrisisPoverty and Open Defecation on Patheos from Gospel for Asia.

Learn more by reading this Special Report from Gospel for Asia: Fight Against Open Defecation Continues — Using Outdoor Toilets to Improve Sanitation


Learn more about Gospel for Asia: Facebook | YouTube | Instagram | LinkedIn | SourceWatch | Integrity | Lawsuit Update | 5 Distinctives | 6 Remarkable Facts | 10 Milestones | Media Room | Malaria Amid COVID 19 | Endorsements | 40th Anniversary | Lawsuit Response | International Offices | Missionary and Child Sponsorship | Transforming Communities through God’s Love

Notable News about Gospel for Asia: FoxNews, ChristianPost, NYPost, MissionsBox

Read what 25 Christian Leaders are affirming about GFA World.

This Special Report originally appeared on gfa.org.


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