Apparently all of us at some point: 100 billion hours are lost every year in looking for a place to go to the toilet. But for 2.5 billion, or 1/3 of the worlds population it is a unavailable luxury.
Sanitation is one of most important areas of International Development. It can’t be ignored, neglected, or avoided. By solving the problem — i.e. equipping the entire world with improved facilities — many lives will be saved.
Toilets as we know are ways in which human waste can be disposed of in a clean and hygienic way. If they are connected to sewage systems, and also happen to provide functioning taps, and soap, the health benefits are immeasurable. Yet it seems the more we advance in medical technology the more we forget the basics
Germs can spread. Humans excrete waste, waste attract insects, these insects, contain diseases, and often hang around people making them sick. Aside from this waste often ends up in water supplies, whether these are rivers, lakes, or derelict conduits; this water is either drank, or used to water crops. Whole communities can become unwell.
For many people living in unplanned, heavily populated slums, or shanty towns, there is often a designated area used as a communal toilet: Overtime this creates a cesspit, which means bacterial transmission of disease is inevitable. Combined with the fact that slums have no planned sewage lines nor artificial reservoirs, clean water becomes contaminated. However rural communities have it worst. Here 43% have no access to toilets whatsoever, in comparison to 27% for urban areas. Villages or nomadic communities will suffer the same problems, as unplanned urban areas, only it is now augmented by hygiene ignorance or superstition. On top of that girls in rural communities who have to resort to open-defecation risk being raped or assaulted.
These are statistics: 80% of diseases that affect developing countries are the result of poor sanitation. Diarrhoea is the second leading cause of child deaths in the world. 0.85 million children die from it. One every 20 seconds dies from poor sanitation in general. 50% of hospital beds in developing countries are taken by people with water borne illnesses. 443 million school days, for the same reason. If current trends continue the world will fail to reach its MDG goal by nearly 10%.
Yet the great news is the situation is improving and their has been progress. In 1990 less than 50% of people had basic sanitation its now 67%. The World Health Organisation reports for every $1 invested in toilets there is $5 dollar rate of return. This year the World Toilet Day’s Campaign is called ‘We Can’t Wait’ to show that while there are improvements, its unacceptably slow.
All of us can help: Individuals members of the public can donate to charities, health sectors can invest in new research and codes of practise, finally businesses can use profits to sponsor WASH programmes. Corporate Social Responsibility shouldn’t just be a buzz word, but a call to action.
While things are a lot better than they were, it is wrong in todays world of television, internet, planes, trains and automobiles, 37% of the global population still don’t have a place to go to the toilet. It is a travesty that 748 million don’t even have clean water to drink. We need a paradigmatic shift in attitude, and governments need to keep their promises in regards to policy pledges, so an international standard has to be maintained.
Being able to use a toilet is a human right. It underpins successful education, economic productivity, public health, and public safety. Not to mention it also is about dignity, living safe from fear or shame, keeping clean, and living in a way that upholds our humanity. This is why on World Toilet Day #WeCantWait should be a hashtag used by everyone.