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November 19th is World Toilet Day. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you don’t think much about your toilet. It’s something you and everyone you in your family uses multiple times a day. It’s a source of occasional humor, especially with young children. Most people reading this just don’t think about their toilet unless something goes wrong with it. Or, most people reading this don’t think about toilets until they need one and don’t have one.
Now imagine that situation was your normal. Imagine in your daily life, not knowing for sure you had a toilet when you needed one. Yet, more than half of the world’s population live as that as their daily norm. World Toilet Day works to both raise awareness of this issue while working to solve it.
What does it mean to have safe sanitation? Like many things, safety exists on a spectrum, so there are many different ways people are experiencing unsafe sanitation. It can mean having to practice open defecation or not having basic handwashing stations, to everything in between.
Safe sanitation means people use hygienic toilet facilities that are not share with other households with the waste separated from human contact and safely disposed of.
This means, in a practical way, that there are humans who don’t have a private place to go. It means their waste is not being safely disposed of. The waste is contaminating the environment where these people live. Their water supply they use for bathing and drinking is contaminated with human waste every day.
That contamination means the spread of disease for billions of people. More than 4.2 billion people do not have safe sanitation. There are currently a little more than 7 billion people on Earth, so this means more than half our planet does not have clean and sanitary living environments.
Every year, this contamination causes more than 400,000 diarrheal deaths. Beyond that, the fecal-infested water is a leading cause of intestinal worms and trachoma. Other diseases that are spread with fecal contact include hand, foot and mouth disease, hepatitis A, viral meningitis, and salmonella.
World Toilet Day November 19
Every year, November 19 is designated World Toilet Day. It is organized by UN Water. The goal of World Toilet Day is to inspire action to solve the global sanitation crisis described above. To learn more about how you can help solve this crisis, check out World Toilet Day’s website.