Nearly a Billion People Still Defecate Outdoors. Here’s Why.

The problem isn’t just a lack of toilets—it’s a lack of toilets that people want to use. The result: millions of deaths and disease-stunted lives.

India

A farmer in Peepli Khera heads into a sugarcane field to defecate, carrying a container of water to rinse with. In his village, north of Delhi, only one family has a toilet. The others go in the fields—men on one side of the village, women on the other.

At 65, Moolchand, bandy-legged and white-haired, has no problem rising for his predawn hunts. In fact he revels in them.

“I hide along the lane with my flashlight,” he says in a low, excited voice, gesturing down the main road of Gaji Khedi village, in India’s Madhya Pradesh state. “And I look for people walking with a lota.”

A lota is a water container, traditionally made of brass but these days more often of plastic. Spied outdoors in the early morning, it all but screams that its owner is headed for a field or roadside to move his or her bowels—the water is for rinsing.

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