Unless everybody in a community has a safe toilet, everybody’s health is threatened.
The facts and figures on toilets from the World Sanitation Program, the World Health Organization (WHO), and WaterAid, show us why we should care about toilets.
1. Today, 2.4 billion people, or about one-third of the world’s population lack access to improved sanitation, that is, facilities that hygienically separate human excreta from human contact, and one billion people still practice open defecation.
2. In 2012 the WHO estimated that the global economic return on sanitation spending is $5.5 for every dollar invested, nearly triple the $2 economic return on water spending.
3. Open defecation -the practice whereby people go out in fields, bushes, forests, open bodies of water, or other open spaces rather than using the toilet to defecate- is a leading cause of diarrhoeal death. The diarrhoea death toll stands at around 6,000 a day, mostly young children.
4. In South Asia alone, one billion people lack access to improved sanitation, and 675 million practice open defecation, more than any other region in the world.
5. Half of the global malnutrition cases are linked to chronic diarrhoea caused by a lack of clean water, decent sanitation, and good hygiene, including hand washing with soap. The extent of the global stunting crisis and scarce access to clean water and decent toilets is having an enormous impact on the future of millions of children suffering from malnutrition.
6. Without improved sanitation facilities and awareness, the risk of infections or other illnesses from faecal sludge or wastewater are extremely high. Just one gram of feaces can contain 10 million viruses, one million bacteria, 1,000 parasite cysts, and 100 parasite eggs.
7. Hand-washing with soap after using the toilet is one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent diarrheal diseases and pneumonia. This simple act can reduce the risk of diarrheal disease by up to 47 percent, but only if it’s done consistently.
To wash your hands properly, make sure you scrub your hands with soap for 20 seconds, or the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.
What you can do is to help raise awareness and collaborate with other well-meaning citizens to build toilet facilities for underserved communities. Also, put pressure on the government to provide basic sanitation for schools, public places, and regions that need them.
Toilets play an essential role in both the health of people and the environment. Proper waste disposal and management equate to cleaner waterways, lower likelihood of lethal diseases and parasites, improved gender equality and education by allowing girls to stay in school during menstruation, and benefits to the economy by creating jobs and increasing productivity.
Everybody should care about toilets because public health depends on toilets.
Do you have any question or comment? Do share with us in the comment section.