World Toilet Day: ''Leaving No One Behind''

World Toilet Day: 'Leaving No One Behind'

Dr. Kaushik Bharati
Article Reviewed by The Medindia Medical Review Team on November 18, 2019 at 5:40 PM
Health Watch
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Highlights:
  • World Toilet Day is celebrated every year on 19th November
  • It stresses on the importance of access to sanitation facilities for leading a healthy life
  • It aims to reduce the global burden of diarrheal diseases by promoting the widespread use of toilets
World Toilet Day is celebrated on 19th November every year. It aims to raise awareness about the importance of toilets and act as a catalyst to tackle the enormous global sanitation crisis. This sanitation crisis has resulted in the spread of water-borne diseases due to contamination of water supplies with untreated human excreta, which has entered the human food chain, affecting billions of people worldwide.

Aims of World Toilet Day

World Toilet Day draws attention to those people who have been deprived of safe sanitation facilities and highlights the socio-economic and environmental consequences arising from inaction. It, therefore, aims to accelerate global efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6), which has a target to "eliminate open defecation and ensure that everyone has access to sustainable sanitation services by 2030". It lays special emphasis on the needs of women and girls, as well as those in vulnerable situations.

History of World Toilet Day

World Toilet Day was established by the World Toilet Organization in 2001, which was made an official United Nations (UN) day in 2013. The UN General Assembly designated 19th November as World Toilet Day through its Resolution (A/RES/67/291) entitled 'Sanitation for All' in a bid to break taboos surrounding toilets and promote sanitation.
World Toilet Day: 'Leaving No One Behind'

UN-Water is the UN's nodal agency that leads international organizations working on water and sanitation in UN Member States and urges them to encourage behavioral changes and implement policies that will increase access to sanitation facilities among the poor, thereby helping to end open defecation.

Theme for World Toilet Day 2019

The theme for World Toilet Day 2019 is 'Leaving No One Behind', which aims to provide access to safe sanitation facilities for everyone, without leaving anyone behind, which is also the mandate of the SDGs.

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The theme highlights the fact that a toilet is not just a toilet; it's a life-saver, dignity-protector and opportunity-maker, as explained below:
  • Life-saver: It is a life-saver because it prevents many killer diseases, including diarrheal diseases, schistosomiasis, trachoma, and intestinal worm infestation
  • Dignity-protector: It is a dignity-protector because it ensures dignity and safety of women, who can become victims of rape and abuse by having to practice open defecation due to absence of toilets that offer privacy
  • Opportunity-maker: It is an opportunity-maker because it has the potential of pulling people out of poverty, thereby opening new opportunities for them

Sanitation: Facts & Figures

  • 4.2 billion people (50% of the global population) live without safely managed sanitation
  • 432,000 diarrheal deaths occur annually due to poor sanitation
  • 297,000 children under five die annually from diarrhea due to unsafe drinking water, inadequate hand hygiene and poor sanitation
  • 673 million people still practice open defecation worldwide
  • 3 billion people lack basic handwashing facilities
  • 2 billion people across the globe consume drinking water from a source contaminated with feces
  • 1.5 billion people worldwide use healthcare facilities having no sanitation
  • 1.5 billion people across the globe suffer from soil-transmitted helminthiasis, which could be prevented with adequate sanitation
  • Only 17 percent of refugees have access to adequate sanitation facilities
  • One third of all primary schools lack basic sanitation and hygiene facilities, affecting millions of school children
  • Children under five living in conflict zones are 20 times more likely to die from diarrheal diseases caused by a lack of safe water, sanitation and hygiene than from direct violence
  • Loss of productivity due to water- and sanitation-related diseases costs up to 5 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of many countries
  • Investment of USD 1 in sanitation saves USD 2.5 in medical costs in urban areas and USD 5 in rural areas

'Safely Managed Sanitation' and its Importance

'Safely managed sanitation' refers to the use of hygienic toilet facilities that ensure safe disposal of excreta, preventing it from coming in contact with humans or causing environmental pollution by pathogenic agents.

Some types of toilets that enable implementation of safely managed sanitation include the following:
  • Flush/pour toilets connected to sewers
  • Septic tanks
  • Pit latrines
  • Ventilated improved pit latrines
  • Composting toilets
Safely managed sanitation is important with respect to the following aspects:
  • Health: Adequate access to safe sanitation facilities encourage people not to practice open defecation, thereby ensuring that untreated human waste doesn't contaminate the environment and spread diseases
  • Privacy & Safety: Safe indoor sanitation facilities provide privacy and safety to women and girls, thereby making them much less vulnerable to sexual assault
  • Productivity: Lack of sanitation facilities can result in absenteeism from work due to poor health arising from diarrhea, caused by intestinal infections. Moreover, school-going girls are often absent from classes during menstruation due to lack of sanitation facilities in schools
  • Environment: Ineffective human waste disposal causes contamination of ecosystems, leading to environmental pollution, which can give rise to killer epidemics

World Toilet Day Events in India - A Snapshot

Numerous events will be organized in various parts of India on the occasion of World Toilet Day. A snapshot of three such events is given below:
  • Pune, Maharashtra: The SNEH Foundation will be conducting its 'Change Lives. Use Toilets Campaign' in Pune to educate marginalized communities about the ill-effects of open defecation and the importance of using toilets. They will be organizing public lectures, rallies, poster exhibitions, drawing competitions, among other activities to spread the message
  • Guna, Madhya Pradesh: A 'Toilet for All Campaign in Rural Areas' is being organized in Guna - a city located in Madhya Pradesh along the banks of the Parbati river. This campaign will focus on issues pertaining to unhygienic toilets in schools
  • Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh: The Neela Jahan Toilet Choupal for Open Defecation will be creating awareness about water and environmental issues pertaining to the practice of open defecation. A meeting (choupal) will be organized that will target school children, youths, women and the local community to highlight the importance of toilets in preserving health and the environment
'Sanitation for All' and the Sustainable Development Goals: Are we on Track?

The Targets within Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) include the following:
  • SDG Target 6.2:
    • Achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation for all
    • End open defecation
  • SDG Target 6.3: Improve water quality by reducing pollution and increasing safe reuse of treated wastewater
The world is off-track for meeting the targets set by the SDGs of ensuring 'Sanitation for All by 2030'. Currently, only 40 out of 152 countries are on track for achieving 'nearly universal' basic sanitation by 2030. Some of the reasons for falling behind on the SDG targets include the following:
  • Funding shortfall
  • Rising demand
  • Worsening water pollution
  • Weak governance structures
  • Fragmented implementation of programs

The Way Forward

In order to 'leave no one behind', stigma and taboos associated with toilets and sanitation must be removed, especially among poor, marginalized populations who have traditionally been ignored as they are hard to reach. These people often suffer the worst health consequences arising from poor sanitation in their communities. Hence, access to sanitation facilities must address the needs of marginalized populations and their voice must be heard by policymakers and decision-makers, so that funding can be increased and targeted at those who need it most.

The overall health benefits of sanitation can only be realized when everyone is included within its purview.

Conclusion

Thus, on World Toilet Day, let's all work collectively to expand access to safe toilets so that no one is left behind, as sanitation is a basic necessity and a human right.

References :
  1. World Toilet Day: This is Not Just a Toilet - (https://www.worldtoiletday.info/)
  2. World Toilet Day 19 November - (https://www.un.org/en/events/toiletday/)
  3. Factsheet: World Toilet Day - (https://www.worldtoiletday.info/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2019/10/WTD2019_factsheet_2019.pdf)
  4. Theme: World Toilet Day - (https://www.worldtoiletday.info/theme/)

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