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Meet Mr Poo - India's anti-public defecation mascot from Unicef

Though the video is light-hearted; the issue is a serious one
  • @bobjwilliams

Meet Mr Poo: The lumpy, brown anthropomorphised faeces that is the face of Unicef's latest public health campaign in India.

Accompanied by an insanely catchy techno-Bollywood-style anthem, Mr Poo features in a very silly and surreal new video aimed at raising awareness of the health dangers associated with public defecation in India. Though the video is light-hearted; the issue is a serious one.

Globally, India has the largest number of people, more than 620 million, still defecating in the open. Only about half the population of the country use toilets.

According to the Poo2Loo campaign, which is supported by United Nations Children's Fund, 44 per cent of mothers in India dispose of their children’s faeces in the open, meaning there is an extremely high risk of microbial contamination (bacteria, viruses, amoeba) of water - which can cause diarrhea in children.

Diarrhea makes children more vulnerable to malnutrition, stunting, and opportunistic infections such as pneumonia.

Mr Poo, who also features in his own smartphone app, released last month, is part of a brave campaign from Unicef, an organisation often reluctant to take a humourous or light-hearted approach to taboo public health subjects.

It has received a mixed reception since it began in January of this year. Some commenters beneath the video posted by Unicef India on YouTube described the campaign as 'degrading', with some criticising the use of English in the video and claiming that its target audience are likely to be already using toilets.

However, the video has received better responses on social media for making a serious and taboo subject accessible.

The video begins with a man sleeping in his bed as the accompanying song begins: "First thing in the morning, what do I see? A pile of sh*t staring at me." He is chased down the street by a collection of poos before the people of town build a giant toilet and flush the faeces away.

"Urban or rural, poo is all around us, in our playgrounds and outside our offices. If we're silent, we're contributors," Maria Fernandez, a Unicef campaign coordinator in India told the Wall Street Journal.

"And," she said, "the song is catchy. I wake up singing it."