Toilets are the talk of the world on World Toilet Day, Nov. 19. World Toilet Organization (WTO) is emphasizing the global importance of basic sanitation. WTO was founded Nov. 19, 2001, to open a dialogue about the importance of everyone in developing countries, especially children, having access to such basic sanitation.
For many of us who live in developed countries, we don’t think twice about our toilets. This might be a sensitive perhaps amusing topic for many, but for people living in countries such as Africa, India, Cambodia and Pakistan, a few of the 90 countries requiring basic sanitation, the topic is no laughing matter. While we may not want to talk about it, we need to, because poor sanitation contributes to life-threatening diseases and poor development in children.
You might think the number of people living without toilets is not that many, but the fact is, one third of the world population does not have access to basic sanitation. That is a huge number, which means about 2.5 billion people do not have access to a toilet. One billion of those people still defecate out in the open. In India, residents have to carry pots of water outside when defecating. Not only do they have to do this in the open, they have no privacy whatsoever. Think about going into a public bathroom and going into a stall where you have no privacy to pee or poo. Now imagine that you, living in the Western world, having to live without access to such toilets or bathrooms. Something as basic as urination and defecation for us, luckily, is not something we need to worry about; it is nearly unfathomable.
The health risks of this lack of access to basic sanitation are huge. According to the UN, the risks to children’s health are grave:
“Approximately 2,000children die per day from diarrheal diseases. Of these deaths, 88%–or around 1,800 per day–are due to poor drinking water, lack of sanitation and poor hygiene. Every year, the failure to tackle these deficits results in severe welfare losses – wasted time, reduced productivity, ill health, impaired learning, environmental degradation and lost opportunities – for millions more.”
There has been some improvement, however, in worldwide basic sanitation practices. According to a 2013 sanitation and drinking water update by the WTO and UN, “Open defecation rates declined globally from 24% in 1990 to 15% in 2011.” But while countries such as Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean have seen some declines in open defecation, sub-Saharan Africa is still seeing an increase.
The Millenium Development Goal (MDG) was designed with the intention of halving the number of people without sustainable access to basic sanitation by the year 2015. According to the UN, this goal will not be met if progress in basic sanitation continues at its current rate.
The solution to solving this problem is not all that difficult. Rather, the problem lies in adjusting people’s behavior in regard to basic sanitation. They are either used to handling their bathroom hygiene in an unhealthy manner or they are not aware of the causes of their diseases. Building sewers and toilets are not an expensive endeavor in itself but it requires bringing entire communities together to change behavior and adapt to a more hygienic environment for all.
By Juana Poareo