There is something that many people don’t like to talk about – toilets. But just imagine for a moment what your life would be like without one.
Not only no toilet in the house, but no out-house just outside the back door. No toilet at the fair grounds when you attend the Fall Fair. No toilet at the hall were you have your regular community group meeting.
How lucky we are here in Canada, where virtually everyone has access to toilets; even the homeless usually have access – public washrooms in malls and many department stores, community centres, parks and churches.
And oh – the many ways we refer to them: WC, bathroom, john, lavatory, water closet, washroom, restroom, loo, privy, and head; I’m sure I’ve missed a few.
Did you know that 2.4 billion people – that’s about one third of the global population – still do not use a basic toilet (have access to improved sanitation)? Or that 946 million people – or one in seven people worldwide – do not have access to any toilet, and are forced to go out in the open (practice open defecation)?
The United Nations (UN) have been celebrating World Toilet Day since 2000. It is celebrated each year on Nov. 19, and this year the theme is “Better Sanitation For Better Nutrition”.
How do toilets affect nutrition? To understand the link, read the following taken from the UN Website:
“Better sanitation supports better nutrition, especially for women and children. Lack of access to clean drinking water and sanitation, along with the absence of good hygiene practices, are among the underlying causes of poor nutrition.
The UN estimates that 946 million people practice open defecation. Defecating openly means diseases like diarrhea and intestinal worms can quickly spread.
According to the World Health Organization, roughly 50 per cent of all malnutrition cases are associated with repeated diarrhea or intestinal worm infections as a direct result of inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene.
A vicious cycle exists between diarrhea and under-nutrition, especially for children. Kids with diarrhea eat less and are less able to absorb and use nutrients from their food; in turn, malnourishment makes them more susceptible to diarrhea when exposed to fecal material from their environment. This has serious and often fatal impacts on their health and development.
Close to half of all child deaths are related to under-nutrition and sub-optimal feeding practices. Poor sanitation and hygiene have also been closely linked to stunting (short height for age) and wasting (low weight for height), which cause irreversible physical and cognitive damage. These conditions respectively affected 159 million people, and 50 million children under the age of five in 2014.
There are also devastating implications for young mothers. Women with good nutritional status face fewer risks during pregnancy and childbirth, and see their children enter the world healthy. Currently, at least 20 per cent of all maternal deaths are related to women being stunted and having anaemia (low blood oxygen levels).
These conditions can cause low birth weight, which impacts the child’s physical and mental development.
Improving sanitation can play a big role in the nutritional status of women and children. By safely separating feces from human contact and the environment, women and children are more protected from disease and malnutrition; children can realize their full potential, and women and their babies can live healthier and more fulfilled lives.”
Why not celebrate World Toilet Day this year and help the UN to raise awareness about the people in the world who don’t have access to a toilet, despite the fact that it is a human right to have clean water and sanitation.
Take action and help promote the idea that more needs to be done about this. Write a song about a toilet, draw a cartoon, host a dinner party, or post a message on social media – support the UN in spreading the word that everyone worldwide must have access to a toilet.