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Bhubaneswar: The Odisha government's endeavour to make the state free of open defecation by 2019 looks almost impossible to achieve, a senior Unicef official said on Thursday.

"The Odisha government has to construct 15 lakh toilets every year to achieve the target. It requires greater participation of villagers and marshalling of manpower resources. It is almost impossible to construct this many toilets," Karin Hulshof, United Nations Children's Emergency Fund regional director for South Asia, told media persons here.

"Only 14 percent population in rural areas is using toilets and that need 20 percent growth per annum to reduce open defecation in the state. We have to propagate positive messages about the use of toilets among the villagers," she added.

Hulshof said even though Odisha has made progress in reducing stunting of children under the age of five, matters needed to be speeded up to eliminate open defecation and reforms in the field of teacher education.

The Unicef regional director said she had suggested to Chief Minister Navin Patnaik to initiate a nutrition mission since one out of three children in Odisha have stunted growth.

She said Odisha had adopted several community driven approaches and policies towards improving sanitation, nutrition and education to tackle stunted growth among children and drive change at the grass-roots level.

She said that even though Odisha had witnessed growth in several indicators, including neonatal mortality, it still lagged behind the national average.

Hulshof, who visited several parts of the state, said: "The trip showed me how Odisha has been advancing steadily for children's welfare despite many challenges. It gave a chance to see a wide range of partners and stakeholders putting in genuine efforts to make the state a better place for its children."

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