What is World Toilet Day?

Initially established in 2001 by the World Toilet Organisation, World Toilet Day became an officially recognised day by the United Nations in 2013. Celebrated every year on the 19th November, World Toilet Day hopes to inspire action to tackle the global sanitation crisis.

Access to safe, clean and hygienic toilets are something most of us take for granted. If we need the toilet, we can access one easily in our home, at our place of work, at school, in the shopping centre… However, for 4.2 billion people worldwide[1], this isn’t a possibility. There are no toilets, no handwashing facilities and nowhere to go.

The theme for World Toilet Day 2019 is “leaving no one behind”, pressing for action to ensure everyone, no matter who they are or where they are from, has access to adequate sanitation as part of their basic human rights.

A toilet is not just a toilet. It’s a life-saver, dignity-protector and opportunity-maker.

What we do

Just a Drop works at a grassroots level to support communities with access to sustainable safe water solutions, sanitation facilities and knowledge of safe hygiene practices. Tailoring each project to the specific needs of each community, we improve access to safe and hygienic toilets in a variety of ways, such as installing gender-sensitive latrine blocks in schools in Uganda, constructing individual bathrooms for model families in India, delivering sanitation education to families in Cambodia and facilitating soap-making enterprises in Kenya.

Our work across Africa, Asia and Latin America directly contributes to Sustainable Development Goal 6 “To ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030”.

Whatever the means, the goal is the same. To ensure there is an easily accessible safe and hygienic toilet for use, so nobody is left behind.

 

Having toilets at school has greatly changed our lives – Timothy, age 12

Shockingly, 25.8 million people in Uganda (66% of the population) lack access to adequate sanitation[3], impeding the social and economic development of communities, exacerbating poor health and maintaining the cycle of poverty. For the vulnerable, particularly women, children and the elderly, the lack of sanitation is even more devastating with an estimated 297,000 children under five dying each year from diarrhoea[4].

Our work in Uganda focusses on providing sanitation to those most vulnerable through the construction of gender-sensitive latrines and the development of Menstrual Hygiene Management programmes in schools, the construction of latrine blocks in health centres, with washrooms and piped water, and through community hygiene training. 

The lack of adequate sanitation facilities at school undermines the cognitive and physical development of children, affecting health, concentration, attendance and educational attainment – preventing children from reaching their full potential.

Before our work in Bibbo Primary School, there were just 5 latrines at the school, shared by the 246 students and 14 teachers. In a dire state of disrepair and unable to cope with the volume of individuals using the latrines, children often relieved themselves in the nearby bushes to avoid the excessively long queues. With no handwashing facilities and the contamination of the school environment due to open defecation, illness was rampant throughout Bibbo with “stomach pains and diarrhoea” a common complaint - life at my school was a misery… the health and sanitation situation was really unpleasant and a threat to our lives.”

We worked with Bibbo Primary to construct 14 gender-segregated latrines, 2 handwashing stations and to deliver sanitation and hygiene education to all children and staff. For Timothy and his friends, having safe and hygienic toilets at school has changed everything, “we no longer wait in queues… we can access a latrine at all times… it has greatly changed our lives.”

 

 

We are already seeing the benefits… the children are happy and healthy – Lakshmi, Amarpura village

Lakshmi, Amarpura Village

The Indian government aims to declare India open defecation free by 2019, investing in household sanitation through providing funding for the construction of household latrines. However, with 577 million people (44% of the population) in India lacking access to adequate sanitation[5], progress is extremely slow, and the most vulnerable in society are being left behind. Although funds are available, there are many people unaware of how to access, use and maintain their sanitation facilities. This is because of a lack of ownership, maintenance, and primarily, a lack of understanding about the need for hygiene and sanitation, and cultural beliefs that prevent these practices. Read more here.

We work across Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu to provide individual latrines, community WASH training to increase understanding, soak-pits and compost pits, together with family hygiene education, to model families, alongside working within schools to refurbish sanitation blocks, construct handwashing facilities and improve the health of the school environment.

As a nursery teacher and member of the Village Water Sanitation Committee, Lakshmi is a key figure of change – mobilising her community to look after their water and sanitation assets, improve the use of toilets throughout the village and through teaching the children about the importance of good sanitation and hygiene practices.

Previously, the surrounding area of her school was used by the community as an open defecation site, contaminating the school environment, exposing the children to poor hygiene and the risk of disease. Just a Drop worked with the community of Amarpura to renovate existing latrines, construct model individual latrines, increase understanding of good sanitation and hygiene practices through education, install handwashing facilities and to clear and clean the open defecation site.

Where the open defecation site once stood, now stands a clean, safe and fun playground. As Laskhmi proudly told us, “we are already seeing the benefits… the children are happy and healthy.”

Globally, the world isn’t on track to meet SDG 6, “funding is falling short, demand is rising, water pollution is worsening and existing governance structures are often weak and fragmented”[6], with rates of progress even slower for those most vulnerable in society. Yet the impact of inaction is monumental, impeding the social and economic development of communities, exacerbating poor health and the spread of disease, devastating the environment and contaminating fragile ecosystems.

So, Just a Drop will continue to press for progress, working with those most vulnerable in society, to ensure everyone, no matter who they are or where they are from, has access to a safe, clean and hygienic toilet, so no one is left behind.

A toilet is not just a toilet. A toilet is a human right.

 

 

 

[1] WHO/UNICEF (2019): Joint Monitoring Programme 2019 update report: Progress on household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: https://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/publications/jmp-report-2019/en/

[2] World Toilet Day https://www.worldtoiletday.info/

[3] WHO/UNICEF (2017): Joint Monitoring Programme 2017 Report (based on estimates on the use of water sources and sanitation facilities) https://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/publications/jmp-2017/en/

[4] WHO (2019): https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/drinking-water

[5] WHO/UNICEF (2017): Joint Monitoring Programme 2017 Report https://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/publications/jmp-2017/en/

[6] WHO (2019): UN-Water global analysis and assessment of sanitation and drinking water (GLAAS) 2019 report: National systems to support drinking-water, sanitation and hygiene: global status report 2019 https://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/publications/glaas-report-2019/en/