Today is World Toilet Day. That sounds like a joke, right? But 2.5 billion people in the world live without improved sanitation (i.e. toilets). And the effects of unsanitary living are devastating: the majority of the world’s diseases are caused by fecal matter. One gram of feces alone can have 10 million different viruses, one million bacteria, 1,000 parasite cysts and 100 parasite eggs. Can you imagine all of this sitting in your backyard every day? That’s the reality for millions in the developing world.
This year, the UN recognized that we’re not on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal for sanitation, to halve the number of people living without it. Worse, a recent WHO report said defecation has actually increased in the last 18 years >
What does sanitation have to do with water?
Everything. Water projects do affect an area’s health — but when coupled with sanitation, clean water can do so much more. Areas that receive sanitation and hygiene training nearly halve the rates of waterborne illness. Beyond health, sanitation grants privacy and dignity, especially to young girls. WHO data shows improvement in school attendance among girls immediately after latrines have been built on school grounds.
We use water as just the first step to eliminate diseases and infant-death mortality; next comes sanitation and hygiene training. In some communities, we fund construction of latrines; at the very least, we promote simple handwashing stations.
To recognize World Toilet Day, we’ve pulled together some of our favorite sanitation initiatives of the year to share the scope of the issue and what some are doing to combat it:
The Big Squat: where would you go?
Today, people all over the world are squatting for one minute to recognize the more than two billion living without access to sanitation. We took a minute to squat here in the office, too… while working, of course…
Sanitation: make it obvious.
Have you heard of The Acumen Fund’s Search for the Obvious? They’re always looking for new approaches to solving problems in poverty using everyday materials or services. They’re focusing right now on sanitation: how can we make sanitation sexy? How can we make sanitation a topic we can not only discuss, but tackle ourselves?
From Search for the Obvious:
We’ve gotten good at talking about malaria, AIDS, disaster relief, global warming, cancer, safe drinking water, and even investing in girls. But, nobody wants to talk about sanitation. The issue is far from sexy. It’s gross. It’s uncomfortable. It’s funny. It’s embarrassing. And that’s a shame. So far this year, 1.5 million children have died from sanitation-related illnesses.
Learn more about taking the challenge to make sanitation sexy here >
Imagine you could never escape it.
From Wateraid, on the streets of London… a funny way to make a point about a serious issue:
More videos? Your turn.
Our local partner in Malawi and India — Water For People — is hosting a video competition all about… poop. Submit a compelling video about a toilet failure, a toilet success or (our favorite) a toilet innovation and you can win $500! Learn more about the contest here >
Ever wonder where everything goes when you flush your toilet? No? Well, even if you’d rather not know, the Domestos Flush Tracker sheds transparency on the underground sewage systems around the world. They haven’t started tracking the U.S. yet, but run a test flush in a European city to get the gist of how fast and far one flush can travel — and where it can end up. Do you think this would be useful for cities to find out where their waste goes? Leave us a comment and let us know.
How can you help?
Beyond raising awareness, you can support the work for improved sanitation by helping us fund water projects. Start a charity: water fundraising campaign — 100% of the money you raise will directly fund water projects that include sanitation and hygiene training.