'1,500 children die daily in India from preventable diseases'

EUGENE, Ore. - In the state of Andhra Pradesh in southeast India, villagers are learning the basics on clean water, bad hygiene and why that's a bad combination.

"Most of the time they are defecating out in the open. They don't have latrines. They don't really understand the need for latrines," said Kaytie Fiedler, team leader with India Partners.

For millions of people in India, lack of clean water is a constant battle. India Partners hopes the WASH program, short for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, can save lives.

Two-thirds of the Indian population have no improved sanitation facilities. That's the problem the WASH program and India Partners is trying to attack.

"It's about 1,500 children who die daily in India from preventable diseases," agency president Brent Hample told KVAL News.

The team is trying to reduce the spread of diseases like cholera and typhoid, which spread through fecal contact.

Fiedler said more than 665 million India residents defecate outside near open sewers or fields, too often near groundwater sources.

"Then after they walk through it, they get a thorn in their foot; they pull the thorn out, then later on they go pick up a piece of fruit, eat the piece of fruit," said Fiedler.

The training in Andhra Pradesh covered proper waste disposal and the importance of washing your hands, solutions that can transform a rural village.

"And show them how through washing their hands, proper sanitation and using clean water," Fiedler said. "They can improve the health of their village and prevent death and disease by 65 percent."

And consider this: young children 5 and underin India account for 25 percent of the total global deaths from diarrhea-related causes. The WASH program aims to change that statistic.

"It's going to be huge. It's really going to be huge," Hample said. "It's going to help a lot of people, so we're hopeful, very hopeful."

Another India Partners team will go to the subcontinent in late June to teach the next classes in the WASH program.