I stumbled on World Toilet Day today – 19 November 2015 – and it got me investigating. What I found out left me with feelings of gratitude for the humble toilet that is taken for granted by so many.
I mean, how many times do you look at the toilet and feel thankful?
Of the 7.3 billion plus people on earth, about 2.4 billion don’t have access to basic sanitation, and almost 1 billion people still poop in the open! Seriously …. can you believe that …. read the stats again and let it sink in … that’s about 40% of the world’s population without access to needed sanitation, and 15% with no private space to ‘go’.
Do you now what that means?
1 in 3 people do not have access to a proper toilet. Stop and imagine that … difficult one, isn’t it? I mean, I know not everyone has access to a toilet but I didn’t know it was that bad. I can’t believe that about 1 in 7 / 8 people don’t have a designated private space … not even a latrine (hole in the ground) to defacate.
My word … unbelievable, right?
The toilet took on a new significance for me towards the end of my pregnancy. On average, we go to the toilet about 6 to 8 times in a day; roughly 2,500 visits in a year. Growing a baby increased my daily toilet visits; and now with a toddler on hand, going to the toilet is quite an ocassion.
I’m not even going to tell you about how normal and sometimes exciting it’s been talking about poo and pooping this last 21 months. And as we gradually move towards so-called potty training, I can’t imagine not having a toilet that is clean and one that flushes.
To think that there are pregnant women out there who have no toilet to use for those needed midnight bladder emptying visits … to think that so many don’t have a toilet to use as their child grows is one that makes me feel so sad.
Why does this matter?
In 2013, about 2000 children under the age of 5 died every day from diarrhoea; I wish I could say that I think this figure is less in 2015 … I of course hope it is. This is a figure that is just mind-blowing …. seriously … that many children die every day from a preventable disease? Diarrhoea is said to be the 2nd highest killer of children in the world; but it doesn’t have to be.
Unsanitary toilet conditions also helps to spread other horrible diseases like cholera, typhoid, hepatitis etc. In many countries, the norm is that over 80% of raw and untreated sewage ends up in lakes and rivers. And you know what? many folks end up drinking this sewage polluted water … unthinkable!
And as with many global issues that need addressing, females are worse off in this sanitation crisis. It’s not shocking that many girls in affected areas end up dropping out of school because of it. I mean, who wants to be using unclean school ‘toilet’ spaces when they have their period? And fancy how safe it is for girls who have to ‘go’ in the open; I don’t want to think about the sexual violence that has directly resulted from this, for so many.
A staggering 443 million school days are lost because of this issue; that’s like every school in Britian shutting down for 3 months … hard to imagine, isn’t it?
Who would have thought that toilets have such power to be such game changers for the life chances and future of so many.
We need to know, we need to talk about it, and do what we can to support those in these situations. This is a reality I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
The next time you want to moan about a relatively alright public loo, or your less than fancy toilet a home, please spare a thought for the billions without any.
Below is a helpful infographic I found by Splashdirect to raise awareness of World Toilet Day; it gives a good overview and much to think about.