November 19th is World Toilet Day. No, it is not a joke. It is an official United Nations day to highlight the plight of the 2.5 billion people in the world who lack access to basic sanitation.
I’ve travelled fairly widely and experienced some pretty basic toilet facilities. Many people in the world do not even have access to a simple sheltered hole in the ground. They may use the local rivers, polluting the water or empty their waste into the streets, bringing disease.
The lack of toilet facilities is a particular problem for women and girls. ‘Open defecation’ is the new battleground for the rights of women and girls to be safe. Can you imagine needing to go to the toilet in the middle of the night and having to find somewhere private to relieve yourself? Can you imagine how frightening that would be? That’s exactly the experience for 1 in 3 women in the world.
This World Toilet Day consider supporting the work of organisations that are bringing clean water and toilets to the poorest people in our world, such as WaterAid. (The link will take you to the global site but they have local organisations.)
If you’re in Australia, there’s a very simple way to do some good in an every day act. Buy your toilet paper from Who Gives A Crap. Started by four young Aussie blokes in 2012 who wanted to make a difference, 50% of their profits go to WaterAid to fund sanitation facilities in the developing world. It’s really cool toilet paper and the business is operated with typical Australian humour. Confirmation emails come from firstname.lastname@example.org and every delivery comes with an ‘Emergency Roll’ with hilarious instructions as to its use.
It’s hard to imagine that something most of us take for granted every day could have such an impact on the health of so many but one child dies every minute from diseases caused by a lack of clean water and sanitation.
On World Toilet Day, it’s good to be reminded of the importance of the humble loo.
And because sometimes it’s best to get a difficult issue across using humour, here’s my favourite World Toilet Day video.