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A Texas A&M University geographer has been awarded a $436,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to study the rural sanitation problems of India, and the findings could literally have life-and-death significance: an estimated 1,000 children under the age of five die every day from sanitation-related diseases in India. Kathleen O’Reilly, assistant professor of geography who has studied water-related issues in India for over a decade, received the five-year NSF grant to find out why rural populations do not build latrines, and even when they have them, may not use them. O’Reilly will study several locations in India and the sanitation issues related to them. They include rural districts in the states of Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu, each state containing more than 55 million residents. Her previous research has shown that if a home does have a toilet, it is often placed in an area that is used by men. Women cannot use them – toilets are located in the household ‘space’ for men, so if men are using the space, a woman has to wait, either until she can leave the house after dark, or until the men have left.

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