Saturday, November 19, 2011

Did you know that today is World Toilet Day?

Did you know that today is World Toilet Day?

I am guessing that most of you reading this have lived your entire lives with access to indoor plumbing and a working toilet.

I am also aware that some of my readers may still not have running water or a flushable toilet in their home. While many of us take for granted that we will always have daily access to a bathroom there are millions of people in many developing countries who are denied this basic need every day.

You're probably wondering: Do we really need a National Toilet Day? The answer is yes. It is a day set aside to try to bring awareness to people around the world.

A group called ‘Water For People’ supports long-lasting solutions that empower communities to solve their own sanitation problems. They have asked bloggers to talk about this topic today so I am glad to do so.

Even thought at first glance World Toilet Day may seem frivolous there are activists in Washington D.C and around the world who use this day to call for increased access to basic bathrooms for everyone.

A toilet is actually a luxury in many areas of the world. Lack of toilets can spell trouble in the form of contaminated water and the spread of diseases such as cholera. Our friends in Haiti lived this experience this past year - 1,180 have died so far. The huge humanitarian operation in Haiti appears to be losing the battle against the latest catastrophe occurring in the poor Caribbean nation. 20,000 people have been treated in hospitals for the diarrheal disease, which can kill in hours through dehydration if not treated quickly.

It is estimated that 2.5 billion people worldwide do not have access to clean toilets and make do by using plastic bags or hustling off into the bushes.

Educate yourself about the lack of sanitation in the world. The facts are staggering - it is the world's biggest cause of infection. Safe disposal of children's feces leads to a reduction of nearly 40% in childhood diarrhea.

What percentage of the world uses toilet paper? The answer is: 30% –alternatives for the other 70% include hands, water, sand, small rocks, mud, leaves, rope, seaweed and corn husks.

So, when you sit down on your throne today, keep in mind that this is a day to remember that not everyone has the same ability to do what you’re doing. Not having a toilet would be like camping outdoors in the woods your whole life, don’t you think?

When I lived in El Salvador I met people in the rural communities who did not have electricity, running water or indoor plumbing. They dug out an open pit in the ground to dispose of fecal waste and when it was almost full they would cover it in with soil and then dug out another. In one community that I spent time in, some Dutch volunteer workers had built each family a raised commode (with a door) outside of the home which was built up high on cement cinder blocks. One had to go up several steps to use the commode and the waste would fall into a chemical filled site below. The villagers laughed and said that they now had royal thrones.

I once attended a gathering in the village where the local pastor conducted a religious service of thanking God for the gift of access to running water. Every villager was in attendance to give thanks to God and to witness the blessing of the water. The same volunteers from Holland had dug for water and it was finally being channeled into a pipe and one faucet. This single outdoor faucet was for the entire village to share. Before the installation of this faucet the villagers had to travel long distances to collect water and carry it in containers, balanced on their heads, back to their homes.

I also witnessed similar conditions in rural India, especially in the Dalit (formerly known as the Untouchables) community.

So there you have it - World Toilet Day is a day marked to make us aware that over 2.6 billion people in other countries across the globe do not have basic sanitation, causing widespread diseases and deaths every day.

Some may pooh-pooh the whole idea – yes, I said it :-) but really, why not stand up so that others can sit down this World Toilet Day!


1 out of 5 children die of diarrheal disease, which means the mother in this photo can expect to bury at least one of her children before their 5th birthday.


To learn more about this go to -

UNICEF is also committed to improving toilet and sanitation conditions worldwide.

Why not volunteer to help with labor or a financial donation? Check them out.


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