India is home to the world’s largest population of people who defecate in the open, some half a billion people. Poor sanitation, hygiene, and lack of safe water contribute to more than 450,000 child deaths from diarrhoea in India each year and to 38% of the global disease burden of stunting. The Government of India (GoI) is making large investments and progress in sanitation through the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM).
The SBM incentive programme is rightly targeted at the ultra-poor. However, this leaves a missing middle: those who are poor but have some financial resources. These families, estimated in the tens of millions, need high-quality products and services from local private market actors, enabled by increased access to financial services for consumers and enterprises.
To ensure that the demands of a growing and mobile population continue to be met over time, strong and adaptable market systems must be developed.