Post imageWorldwide, 2.5 billion people don’t have access to basic sanitation like toilets and latrines. As UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, a leading advocate for clean water and sanitation, points out, “More people have cell phones than toilets in today’s world.”

photo credit: UNICEF

Toilets aren’t an issue that come up in everyday conversation, but on World Toilet Day tomorrow, it’s time we talk about them and why they matter.

• According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), “1,600 children die per day of diarrhoea that’s largely preventable through clean toilets, safe water and good hygiene.” That’s more than one child a minute.

• Many girls stay home from school if they don’t have access to a toilet when they are menstruating.

• Adults are suffering too. In fact, according to the UNICEF a whopping one-fourth of the world’s population suffers from intestinal worms, which can be prevented by adequate sanitation, clean toilets, and good hygiene.

• When so many people are sick, productivity goes down and economies suffer. WaterAid highlights a study that found: “For every $1 invested in water and sanitation, an average of $4 is returned in increased productivity.”

The topic may be uncomfortable, but the need to address it is undeniable.

The good news is we’re making progress: Since 1990, almost 1.9 billion additional people have gained access to adequate sanitation. But for the dignity, health, and well-being of the one-third of the population that still doesn’t have it, we must do much more on sanitation.

The UN Deputy Secretary-General has launched a call for “sanitation for all.” To make this goal a reality, we need to bring this issue into the open and make it a global priority. We also need to scale up solutions that work. And we need to increase cooperation between governments, businesses, and civil society to expand access to sanitation.

Visit UNICEF’s Toilet Trek site to learn more and help spread the word.