Bringing sanitation to India’s slums

Access to sanitation is a basic human right. Yet tragically, 2.4 billion people lack access to a proper toilet. As part of Unilever’s commitment to addressing the sanitation crisis, through its brand Domestos and partners such as UNICEF, it has helped 5 million people gain access to a toilet. Reinforcing this commitment and to mark World Toilet Day, we have launched a ground-breaking new initiative in one of Mumbai’s largest slums.

Supporting sanitation for all

There is an urgent need for innovative solutions that work at scale to address the challenges of rapid urbanisation, particularly for the less privileged sections of society.

Paul Polman, Unilever CEO

Suvidha, meaning ‘facility’ in Hindi, is a first-of-its-kind urban water, hygiene and sanitation community centre, located in the Azad Nagar settlement and funded by Unilever in partnership with local government and NGOs.

The centre will provide more than 1,500 people living in the slum. Based on the principles of a circular economy, the centre provides access to fresh water for handwashing, clean showers, safe drinking water and laundry, with the wastewater from these activities then used for flushing toilets, saving an estimated 10 million litres of water a year

Unilever CEO Paul Polman said: “There is an urgent need for innovative solutions that work at scale to address the challenges of rapid urbanisation, particularly for the less privileged sections of society.

“Suvidha is a unique community initiative that aims to address the key challenge of providing easy and affordable access to quality hygiene and sanitation facilities in a sustainable manner.”

The theme of this year’s World Toilet Day was Toilets and Employment, and the centre is a clear example of the link between the two. Without access to safe, clean facilities, the communities using the centre would otherwise be at greater risk of exclusion from education and employment, blighting their opportunities for years to come. Furthermore, the centre will not only create employment opportunities, particularly for women, it will also free up time for more women to engage in more productive activities and employment by reducing the burden of travelling to source water.

“With a population of 1.3 billion and accelerated urbanisation, India faces immense pressures on its cities. Its slum population has more than doubled in the past decade. This poses problems for communities to access water, hygiene and sanitation. Improving access to these basic needs is essential to offering people a better life,” said Sanjiv Mehta, CEO and Managing Director, Hindustan Unilever.

The launch reinforces our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan commitment to helping 25 million people gain improved access to improved sanitation by promoting the benefits of using clean toilets and making toilets accessible.

As part of our work to date, the Domestos Toilet Academies, in partnership with health organisation PSI and building on its work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, have helped build more than 70,000 toilets in rural households, impacting 350,000 people in Bihar, India.

Domestos also runs a programme in eight countries which helps install and maintain proper sanitation facilities in schools. To date it has reached hundreds of thousands of students and its reach is still expanding.

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