Most of you who will read this article may find it funny that today, 19th November, is world toilet day. Toilet? Why would there be such a date? You will even be more shocked that you actually take the fact that you have a toilet for granted, because billions of people out there do not have toilets.
Not having a toilet not only means lacking a toilet. People who do not have toilets lack many other important things. First, their health is at stake, their dignity is compromised, they miss out on several opportunities, poses danger to security and most importantly, their right to sanitation is violated.
According to the United Nations (UN), more than half of the world’s population, which comes to 4.2 billion people, do not have access to safely managed sanitation, while 673 million more practice open defecation. For these reasons, these people are exposed to killer diseases such as intestinal worms, trachoma and schistosomiasis, while an estimated 432,000 people die annually from diarrheal diseases.
Every year, about 297,000 children under five years of age die from these diarrheal diseases for the same reasons of lacking toilets, proper sanitation, hand hygiene and drinking unsafe water.
The United Nations says that children under the age of five living in countries affected by protracted conflict are, on average, nearly 20 times more likely to die from diarrheal diseases caused by a lack of safe water, sanitation and hygiene than by direct violence.
Effects of lacking toilets
On human health, open defecation exposes humans to waterborne diseases. Most open defecation practices in the world happen inside or next to water ways such as rivers, lakes and drainage systems for urban centres.
When this happens, the waste is carried into water systems without being treated to remove the feacal matter, and when humans ingest the water with waste, they are exposed to deadly diseases such as cholera, typhoid and trachoma.
Apart from direct ingestion of contaminated water, open defecation caused vector borne diseases. Do you remember the flying toilets? Where people, due to lack of toilets would do their business in plastic bags and throw it to wherever it would fall? Well, imagine a heep of human waste somewhere. It would definitely attract flies and other insects which would then travel carrying the waste and landing on food and drinks.
The environment also suffers as a result of open defecation because it introduces toxins and bacteria into the ecosystem in amounts that it cannot handle or break down at a time. This leads to build up of filth. Also, the load of microbes can become so great that in the end, they end up in aquatic systems thereby causing harm to aquatic life.
You may not know this but lack pf toilets is a security danger to people affected. Imagine having to go out at night to ease yourself, and in the process getting attacked by people or animals such as snakes? In some cases, children and adults, especially women get raped.
It is because of the afore mentioned reasons that the UN’s World Toilet Day 2019 theme is ‘Leaving no one behind’, aimed at inspiring everyone to take action in fighting global sanitation crisis and help achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, which promises sanitation for all by 2030.