It’s World Toilet Day and still more than one-third of the world’s population – 2.5 billion people – do not have access to proper toilets, and 1 billion people practice open defecation. Toilets may not be a popular topic of daily conversation, but it’s a crucial issue we need to talk about in order to create a healthier and safer world.
Why? The facts are shocking. According to the UN:
- Every year, hundreds of thousands of children under the age of 5 die from diarrhea that’s largely preventable through solutions such as clean toilets, clean water, and good hygiene, as well as vaccines.
- Safe sanitation is a key factor in keeping adolescent girls in school. Many teenage girls leave school when they start menstruating because they have no privacy. Additionally, girls and women are at risk of violence when they walk in the dark to find a toilet or to openly defecate.
- Nine out of 10 people openly defecating live in rural areas. And in areas where toilets do exist, they often aren’t adequate for people with special needs, such as elderly people, people with disabilities, and girls and women who need to manage menstrual hygiene.
- Safe sanitation cost less than you think – as little as $20 per household annually. And with every $1 invested in sanitation, you gain $5 in benefits from reducing health care costs.
Ending the practice of open defecation can help reduce illness, child deaths, violence against women, and missed school days. Millions of lives can be saved if only proper sanitation was available to all.
Improving access to sanitation has been a key priority for the United Nations and UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, who has launched the “End Open Defecation” campaign to spur dialogue and action on this issue. UN Water and many other UN agencies are also helping to address the sanitation challenge, along with partners around the world.
A big part of solving this problem is talking about it and raising awareness of the need to do something.