Why do we need to build toilets?

It is time to remind ourselves of the importance of the humble toilet.

If you’re lucky, yours is clean, private, and takes your waste away for you, efficiently and immediately. However, if that is you, you are not in the majority. Only two out or five people enjoy this luxury.

Another two out of five people have access to private or shared ‘improved’ toilet facilities – that is where waste is treated on site.

The remaining one in five people use either a pit, a hanging toilet over water, a bucket, or a field. That is 1.727 billion people using unsafe toilets, or no toilets at all.

World Toilet Day aims to help bring that number down to zero. It is a target set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015, one of the sustainable development goals – to end ‘open defecation’ (the practice of defecating outside, in the open environment, rather than into a toilet) by 2030. But why is this so important?

Open defecation is unsafe for many reasons.

  • It affords no privacy and leaves you vulnerable to the elements and to other people around you.
  • It makes a mess of the environment, as  waste accumulates faster than it can naturally degrade.
  • Waste can be moved around, accidentally brought back to homes by feet or animals.
  • Worst of all, the factors above mean it can easily end up contaminating food and water.

We understand that access to clean water, safe sanitation, and good hygiene are essential to combatting waterborne and diarrheic diseases.

In 2016, 477,293 children under five died because of diarrheic diseases, and diarrhoea is still among the top three causes of death for that age group. The WHO and UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme found that 23% of schools around the world still don’t have any sanitation facilities at all, meaning those children have to either put themselves at risk or stay at home.

That is why we help to build toilets and shared latrines in places where that access is lacking – schools, rural communities, places of conflict and refugee camps: bccess to clean water and better toilets can help reduce these risks.

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