Mr. Poo

I visited India for the first time a few years ago, and ever since I have been thinking about the enormous problem of public defecation. It is not quite as au courant a topic as, say, human trafficking, but in terms of the number of lives affected, it has massive implications because of the spread of disease.

The latest attempt to make progress on this problem is a music video launched by UNICEF.

It is truly amazing to me that this video got made. Not because it will or won’t work, but just because it is so odd. But I like it!

What do you think? Will this have an impact?

I have my own views on how to attack the problem; I’ll write those up on the blog when I have a chance over the next week or two.

Steve Bradford

You've been thinking about this "ever since." Really?


@Steve, bet he has, in a sort of a "what cannot be unseen" way.... I know I am!


This video might not have the intended impact on public defecation problem. People who can understand the language and the message in the video, already have access to the loo. Nobody in their right mind would love to involve in this kind of activity. But people in India are still doing it. This problem is more pronounced in the regions in overcrowded cities where people live below the poverty line.
Wikipedia search on 'Poverty in India' shows "Poverty in India is widespread—in 2014, the World Bank reported that 11.8% of all people in India fall below the international poverty line of US$ 1.25 per day." This means about 150 million people are living below the international poverty line. Many of them live in overcrowded cities. When you are living in such dire conditions, having your own home is next to impossible. So people live in slums paying meager rents. Slum owner don't have incentive to build toilets since building the toilet means wasting the land. That land can be used to build extra home in the slum which can bring some cash. There are few public toilets near the slum area but those are maintained properly. Many of them don't even have a running water. Think of the ordeals you have to go through to attend the nature's call when you don't have access to the reasonably clean loo. That is when unthinkable happens!
In areas away from overcrowded cities, public defecation is still a problem. The reasons are mostly poverty and lack of running water. Government came up with a plan to award subsidies to build the toilets. People who build toilets using subsidies don't have running water at home to maintain them. Other people who are poor would rather take the money(intended for construction of toilets) through the corrupted official and use it for making ends meet.
People can't afford or don't have incentive to build the toilets. Government has to step in to provide enough clean sanitation facilities for the people. I can't think of any other solution to this. I look forward to Mr. Steven Levitt's article about this problem.



@Neil: Your comment to be part of a blog post, instead of lost among comments. ;-)


Seems like the target audience would be folks who don't have ready access to in-home or at-work sanitation. If someone doesn't have a toilet at home, are they likely to have a computer or a smart phone? Or is the target audience far more wealthy than I would have assumed?


Deeply weird! I thought the issue in India was lack of adequate sanitation facilities. Do people defecate in public in the presence of toilets?


In some countries,even if the price to use "public " restrooms, is only 30 cents of dollar,.that is a lot of money!

A lot of money compared with paying nothing.

Zach Prewett

Mixed feelings really. I am ashamed to say that I was pulling for the poo by the end of it.
Not to mention the millions of lives that could be improved by means of transpoosion.

Georgie Shauchalay

Everything about this video beings is a complete disaster like what were they thinking their target demographic is, and what it would finally achieve.

I am an Indian and I find this deeply insulting in a "white man's burden" sort of way. But yes, self-righteous disconnected sanctimonious "liberals" in Europe and America can watch this and slumdog millionaire and other such and feel good about themselves.


What a weird video! I watched a ted talk on this a while ago and was surprised by how much of a problem public defecation is. Hope the video helps, I kind of doubt it though


Wow that was odd. The way I can see the video being helpful (and this is probably the intent) is that it has the potential to go internet viral and as such many people of priviledge will see it and become aware of a problem which they had no idea and perhaps be compelled to donate to the cause of helping the poo get to the loo. The intended auduence isn't the people that need convincing to use a toilet (that probably doesn't exist) it's marketing for fundraising (and for a compelling enough cause).

David Rosam

Will it have impact???

I think it'll certainly stick :-)

Maria Laura

Hi! I think this is a nice idea, building on an old UNICEF view on how to eliminate the problem of open defecation. They believe than in rural or peri-urban areas, the key component of adopting latrines is behavioral change and not a problem with hardware construction. They do this sort of advertisement in several ways in countries of West Africa as well. check
I've just finished a randomized controlled trial to look at the effect of a campaign aiming at behavioral change to stop open defecation and build latrines, and it has a very important impact on latrine take up.


Purpose of the video ???
It is in English & most people in Canada do have a Loo.
Even built some for the bears outside Huntsville. Very progressive.

It was interesting as a video.


Public defection has so many layers to it. I'm a design researcher, working on a ramification of human waste project for India. It will interesting to know what you think about it, its still work in progress.


The reason people in developing nations don't use a lavatory is that - even where basic plumbing exists - these are far more disgusting than outside (aka public) defecation. Self-interest (the horror of stepping into one of these tiny feces-drenched cubicles - try it and see for yourself) far outweighs their public interest in preventing disease. It is not that they don't know that they shouldn't defecate outside, it is that they simply find it a far better option. Therefore I don't think informational videos such as this (even though cute and quirky) will make a difference until the basic problem of unclean toilets is addressed.