Toilets are awesome. Even before having to give up the western flush toilet for my hole in the ground I have been a big fan of toilet. (My former students can tell you that I get overly excited about world toilet day). The people who work a water and sanitation facilities are so much more important than anyone ever gives them credit for.
So why do I get overly obsessed with the fate of our waste? Because so many people don’t know the luxury of a flush toilet. Worldwide 2.4 billion people (that’s about 40% of the population) don’t have access to improved sanitation (i.e. sinks, soap, etc) and 1 billion people still defecate in the open. More than 1/7 of the world’s population would be ecstatic to have my toilet. Poor hand washing habits or the inability to wash hands increases the risk of disease and malnutrition and defecating in the open means that even if you wash your hands if the waste enters your water system there is very little people can do to then treat that water or to even know that they need to treat it. Children miss school due to illness or even die due to the lack of a toilet.
Another issue that most people often ignore is how the lack of sanitation impacts women. Girls stay home from school during their periods because they don’t have a safe space to take care of normal bodily function. Worse yet is that women and girls risk being sexual assaulted or raped because they are forced to defecate in the open. If this makes you uncomfortable it should. No one deserves the lack of dignity that accompanies a lack of a toilet. No one should have to stay home from school due to illness and fear. No one should have to spend the whole day waiting to return home from school so they can defecate safely.
So please take world toilet day to become better informed about this issue and share this with others. It may not be a comfortable conversation but it’s one we need to have now. #wecan’twait
“No innovation in the past 200 years has done more to save lives and improve health than the sanitation revolution triggered by the invention of the toilet. But it did not go far enough. It only reached one-third of the world”
Sylvia Mathews Burwell