Today, the 19th of November marks World Toilet Day and this year’s theme is “Leaving no one behind!”
Currently, there are 4.2 billion people who do not have access to safely managed sanitation, 673 million people still practice open defecation and 3 billion lack basic handwashing facilities. With such staggering statistics, it is no wonder that the United Nations established Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, which in part aims to eradicate open defecation and ensure access to sustainable sanitation by 2030.
World Toilet Day was established by the World Toilet Organization and made an official UN day in 2013. The UN saw the need to mark World Toilet Day as an “International Day” to increase awareness, educate the public and gain political resources to address issues surrounding water and sanitation on a global scale.
According to the World Toilet Organization, only 26 percent of countries are on track to achieve universal, basic sanitation. The rate of progress for rural and poor communities is even slower; an indication that people are indeed being “left behind”.
People who are most effected by the sanitation gap include:
- the disabled, elderly and those with compromised
- the poor
Intersectionality teaches us that the interactions of the above factors and others lead to added disadvantages. One clear example of this would be a disabled woman from a poor township. She would be subjected to significant exclusion and suffering. Hence, it is not surprising that the top ten countries in 2016 with the largest populations experiencing poor access to sanitation were all from the developing world.
Women and children in particular have been left behind in issues surrounding sanitation and hygiene. For example, approximately 297,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoeal diseases – this mortality rate is higher than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. Adolescent girls often have to miss out on school during their menstrual period, because of inadequate sanitation facilities at schools. Women and girls are forced to fear for their safety when needing to find a place to urinate or defecate outside, in the dark, leaving them prone to abuse and sexual assault.
If cost is given as a reason not to invest in sanitation, it’s worth noting that for every $1 invested in basic sanitation in rural areas, an average of $5 is returned. On this World Toilet Day, let us re-commit ourselves to conserving our water sources, preserving and maintaining sanitation infrastructure and in particular for poor and rural communities.
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Siddiqui, N.S. 2016. Top 10 countries with poor sanitation facilities. [Online] <https://listsurge.com/top-10-countries-poor-sanitation-facilities/> [Accessed: 18 November 2019].
UN. World Toilet Day. [Online] < https://www.un.org/en/events/toiletday/> [Accessed: 18 November 2019].
WHO, 2019. Drinking water. [Online] < https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/drinking-water>. [Accessed: 18 November 2019].
WHO/UNICEF, 2019. Progress on household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene. [Online] < https://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/publications/jmp-report-2019/en/> [Accessed: 18 November 2019].
World Toilet Day Factsheet, 2019. [Online]. < https://www.worldtoiletday.info/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2019/10/WTD2019_factsheet_2019.pdf>. [Accessed: 18 November 2019].