Popping to the Loo? Count Yourself Lucky
On 19th of November is World Toilet Day.
For the majority reading this, toilets are a given. They are everywhere: at home, at work, on trains, in cafes, even between buildings on the street. If I had to guess, I would estimate the average person in a European city has access to at least five clean, functioning toilets a day. Would you agree?
But, it is World Toilet Day, not European City Toilet Day. Across the world, the picture is very different. For approximately 60% of the global population, that is 4.5 billion people, access to a toilet is not a given. 4.5 billion people around the world either have no toilet at home or one that is not safe to use. Suddenly, having access to five seems like an incredible privilege.
World Toilet Day is not just about calling for people’s access to toilets but calling for access to toilets that are safe and sanitary. People should not be afraid to use a toilet or prevented from working, learning or socialising because of its location. In countries such as Iraq and Syria, where People in Need (PIN) runs water, sanitation and hygiene programmes in schools, if there is no safe, female-only toilet, young girls will simply not go to class, especially during their periods. In Afghanistan, women wait until after dark to go to the toilet, prioritising modesty and a fear of being seen. However, women who leave the house alone after dark are at greater risk of sexual assault and encountering snakes, scorpions and spiders. Their decision to go to the toilet involves weighing up multiple social, cultural and physical risks.
In Angola and Ethiopia, PIN shows communities how to construct hygienic toilets out of locally sourced materials. In Angola, PIN has helped build over 10,000 new latrines in 200 villages. In addition to material and technical assistance, education and awareness-raising are also crucial to improving hygiene and sanitation practices. Eliseu Sipitali from Mbambi Mupa village in Angola explained to PIN that, "Many of us didn't have any knowledge about latrine building and personal hygiene. The programme has explained to us what is necessary for a healthy life. After the awareness work, we began digging holes for the latrines. In the beginning, the latrines were made of grass; and we have already started to build latrines with clay." Many across Angola, and many more worldwide, continue to rely on unsanitary toilets or defecate in the open. Globally, 869 million people practice open defecation and have no toilet facility at all.
If you have access to one hygienic, risk-free toilet, let alone five, you are one of a fortunate minority.