Let’s talk dirty

Posted on November 17, 2011


Just when you thought you had heard it all, along comes World Toilet Day, celebrated annually by the World Toilet Organisation on the 19th November.

But why would something as dirty as The Toilet need its own organisation AND day?

The answer:

2.5 BILLION people around the world do not have somewhere safe, private or hygienic to go to the toilet [1].

With a population of 7 billion, that’s 35% of the world’s population without access to adequate sanitation!

Portable toilet? Yes! A bucket. Urbanisation in Nepal has lead to the rise of many slum areas around the city. This girl's 'house' does not have a toilet, they resort to defecating into containers.

The picture above was taken while doing some data collection in one of the biggest slum areas in Kathmandu, Nepal. We bumped into this 10 year old girl as she was coming from discarding her family’s human waste into the nearby river. Her family’s toilet: the buckets she is carrying.

Rapid and uncontrolled urbanization in Nepal has lead to the rise of 62 slum areas in Kathmandu alone. According to our data, only 11% of slum-dwellers had access to ‘adequate sanitation’ facilities as defined by the United Nations.

Even after witnessing such rampant poverty, it is still hard to believe that in 2011, everyday people defecate in public open spaces, in plastic bags, in containers.

And the reason you should give a crap (pun intended!) is that every year, around the world diarrhoea kills 2.2 million children under the age of 5   [2, 3] mostly as a result of poor sanitation leading to contaminated water and food sources.

Indirectly, a lack of toilets can also:

1. Reduce school and work attendance due to frequent diarrhoeal disease episodes [3]

2. Increase school drop-out rates, especially for adolescent girls who lack  adequate toilet facilities (in particular needed for those womanly times of the month) at schools [3]

3. Hinder economic development (at a household and national level) due to the diversion of already scarce resources to treat diarrhoeal diseases [3]

As you can see, World Toilet Day is no load of sh*t (pun also intended)!

While in developed countries, World Toilet Day is used to campaign for better and/or more public toilet facilities, in developing countries it is used to highlight the fact that a lack of sanitation claims lives.

Squatting in london

Squatting in London: To celebrate World Toilet Day, WaterAid proposed the ‘The Big Squat’ campaign in 2009.

Q: How can you show your support for this unlikely hero?

A: Well, this brings me to squatting in public spaces (and NO that is not me on the picture to your left):

To demonstrate to developed nations just how important toilets really are, for the last two years on the 19th of November, supporters of World Toilet Day have been squatting in public places for 1 minute before leaving behind a fake poo as a memento! You could join them!

However, if you do not fancy a squat, BUT you enjoy toilet humour, how about purchasing this HILARIOUS book: Flush This Book: True Tales of Bodily Malfunctions (here is a sample story from the book)

I have snapped up my copy! (and have been ROFL! Consequently i have developed abs of steel…) (wishful thinking)




[1] UNICEF WHO (2008). UNICEF and World Health Organization Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation. Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation: Special Focus on Sanitation. UNICEF, New York and WHO, Geneva.

[2] WHO (2009). Fact sheet N°330: Diarrhoeal Disease (Accessed from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs330/en/index.html, 17 November 2011)

[3] UNICEF (2009). Soap, toilets and taps: A foundation for healthy children (Accessed from http://www.unicef.org/eapro/activities_10451.html, 17 November 2011) .