World Toilet Day 2015: Addressing the colossal global sanitation challenge!

 UN officially recognized November 19 as World Toilet Day to motivate and mobilize millions around the world on issues of sanitation. 

World Toilet Day 2015: Addressing the colossal global sanitation challenge!

Ritu Singh

According to the United Nations, 2.4 billion people around the world don't have access to decent sanitation and more than a billion are forced to defecate in the open, risking disease and other dangers. Yes that's indeed an alarming figure!

Just like any other right, it's every person's right to clean water and sanitation. To address and educate people about the the same, in 2013, the UN officially recognized November 19 as World Toilet Day to motivate and mobilize millions around the world on issues of sanitation. It strives to make sanitation for all a global development priority and to draw attention to global sanitation issues.

Theme for 2015

The theme for 2015 is nutrition and sanitation, giving emphasis on the importance of toilets to support adequate nutrition and better health and educate people who do not have access to toilets. Nutrition is related to potable drinking water and cleanliness as well as proper hygienic practice.

"One out of three women around the world lack access to safe toilets," U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement. "As a result they face disease, shame and potential violence when they seek a place to defecate."

According to the UN, although there is enough fresh water supply all over the world, millions of deaths and diseases still occur due to "bad economics" and "poor infrastructure."

The great Indian sanitation crisis: 

Such is the significance of this issue that PM Narendra Modi addressed it in his inaugural Independence Day speech in which he seeked to eradicate open defecation in India by 2019. "We are in the 21st century and yet there is still no dignity for women as they have to go out in the open to defecate and they have to wait for darkness to fall," Modi said.

But is this promise feasible? India leads the world in open defecation and that's something to be ashamed about. More than half of the population (roughly 600 million people) are forced to open-defecate every day due to a shortage of adequate facilities and infrastructure, and a lack of understanding of the importance of healthy sanitation habits.

A staggering 70% of Indians living in villages defecate in the open. India aspires to be a superpower but open defecation is more common in India than in poorer countries. Surprsingly, less than half of Indian households have a toilet at home but there are more households with a mobile phone than with a toilet.

The WHO/UNICEF joint monitoring programme for water supply and sanitation has said that at its present pace, India would take time till 2054 to meet its millennium development goals 2015 on sanitation. India needs to scale up its war on sanitation with a special emphases on women. More toilets need to be constructed but more than that, awareness needs to be spread as Indians continue defecating outside despite access to toilets.

Here are some important facts about the global sanitation challenge:

  • Poor sanitation kills more people than HIV/AIDS, malaria and measles combined, according to the World Toilet Organisation.
  • 40 percent of the global population are still forced to practice open defecation or lack adequate sanitation facilities.
  • The provision of proper toilets could save the lives of more than 200,000 children in the world, according to the UN.
  • About 1 out of 3 people lack access to improved sanitation facilities, and just under 1 billion continue to defecate openly.
  • The spread of many diseases (e.g. soil-transmitted helminthiasis, diarrhea, schistosomiasis) and chronic malnutrition in children is directly related to exposure to human feces.
  • It is estimated that 58% of all cases of diarrhea are caused from unsafe water and poor sanitation and hygiene.
  • Poor sanitation contributes to over 500,000 child deaths from diarrhea every year.
  • The World Bank has estimated that poor sanitation costs India more than $53 billion a year or over 6 percent of its gross domestic product


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