When you wake up in the morning, what’s the first thing you do? If you are like most people, you probably check your phone and then make your way to the bathroom. Now imagine if you woke up without a toilet in your home. Pulling on your clothes, you make your way outside to find a place to “go,” which is likely to be in a field or an improvised solution like a hanging latrine. This is the reality for more than 2.5 billion people who lack access to improved sanitation, and we’re talking about today, in 2012.
We take our toilets for granted. Just a little more than 100 years ago, New York, London, and Paris were centers of infectious disease in part due to not having a sewer system for human waste. Death rates for children were as high then as they are now in much of Sub-Saharan Africa. It was sweeping reforms in sanitation infrastructure and safe water that, together, enabled human progress to leap forward.
Currently, only 63 percent of the world's population has access to improved sanitation—a facility that ensures hygienic separation of human excreta from human contact. This translates into disease and illness which are responsible for days of school and work lost, embarrassment and personal safety issues for women and girls, and a loss of dignity for anyone who has to relieve themselves without privacy. Furthermore, diarrhea continues to be the second leading cause of death among children under five in the world, killing more children than malaria, AIDS, and measles combined.
These facts change rapidly when people get a toilet. Take for example, 48-year-old Banesa Begum and her family of five living in Bangladesh. They were trapped in a cycle of poverty without the means to buy a toilet. This required their family to practice open defecation and kept them all ill with dysentery, diarrhea, and worms. When they were able to take out a small loan with their neighbors to build a toilet, everything changed for the better.
On World Toilet Day, we invite you to be part of the solution and #talksh_t with us. When you “Donate Your Voice” to the cause, you will help others learn about how big the problem is, why it matters and what can be done to change it. Together we can end this crisis in our lifetime.