If you’re reading this blog post, chances are you’ve used a toilet recently. It’s also likely you’ve never really considered how fortunate you are to have access to that toilet. Could you imagine what it would be like to leave your house in the middle of the night to relieve yourself outside rather than inside the safety and privacy of a clean bathroom stall?
Today is World Toilet Day and we’re recognizing the 2.5 billion people around the world who do not have access to a toilet (that’s about 1/3 of the world’s population!). The magnitude of this problem is significant. Without a toilet, people are forced to defecate outside – an act that compromises a person’s dignity, privacy and safety, and leaves billions susceptible to neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).
Schistosomiasis and intestinal worm infections such as roundworm, hookworm and whipworm are easily spread in communities that do not have access to toilets or sanitation facilities. Schistosomiasis spreads when infected people urinate or defecate close to a water source, contaminating it with the larvae of the parasite. Without proper infrastructure (toilets and city utilities) more than 80% of sewage in developing countries is discharged untreated polluting rivers, lakes and coastal areas and promoting the spread of NTDs.
Simply walking barefoot around this polluted and contaminated water leaves people exposed to NTDs. As a result, people can be continually re-infected as they work, play, bathe or eat. Children especially have a high risk of contracting these diseases because they often play barefoot outside and put their hands in their mouths without washing them.
According to the World Health Organization, improving water, sanitation and hygiene can reduce trachoma by 27 percent, and improved sanitation could reduce schistosomiasis by as much as 77 percent.
By combining NTD treatment, hygiene education and creative solutions for the 2.5 billion people without access to toilets, we can tackle this problem. Important work is being done by several partner organizations to promote better water, sanitation and hygiene worldwide. The Global Network is also happy to work with former president of Ghana John A. Kufuor to promote long term NTD solutions by integrating mass drug administration with programs for water, sanitation and hygiene – a message the former president drove home at this year’s World Water Week in Stockholm, sweeden.
To learn more about the links between clean water, sanitation and NTDs, watch our quick video here.
By: Hope Randall, Program Assistant for PATH’s diarrheal disease communications and advocacy team
I spent last Friday evening group of nerds about the deadly global impact of diarrheal disease and the solutions to defeat it.
Public speaking doesn’t typically make me nervous, but on Friday, I took advantage of my free drink ticket before taking the stage to talk to a group of young DC professionals about diarrhea. While this topic is familiar enough in global health circles, I’m never quite certain how the public at large will react. Will they laugh without taking the message seriously? Wrinkle their noses in disgust? Lose attention completely?
My concerns were completely unwarranted. As I presented “The Scoop on Poop,” we laughed together at potty humor and edgy communications strategies, then easily segued to the heart of the matter: that while we have the luxury of laughing about toilets and poop jokes, children around the world are dying from a lack of World Toilet Day and the crowd whooped and cheered. Read more: Toilets, Nerds, and the Importance of Advocacy
Blog post courtesy of Eileen Burke, Director of Media and Communications at Save the Children.
For Sarita, age 15, going to the bathroom during school used to bring fears of being bitten by a snake or embarrassment of having people see her going out in the open.
“The surrounding area of the school has poor sanitation,” explained Surya Prasad Bhatta, a teacher at Chaudyal Lower Secondary School in Kailali District of Nepal, where Sarita is a student. “The students would usually have to go on the river bank or in the jungle due to lack of toilets. It was difficult for them.”
Sarita’s story is all too common among school-age children in developing countries. Many children have limited or no access to a bathroom during the school day. According to UNICEF, nearly two out of three schools in poor countries lack adequate sanitation.
School-age girls like Sarita, especially those who have reached puberty, are vulnerable to missing school or dropping out when there are no private and safe toilets available.
Save the Children will join with other organizations around the world to draw attention to the global sanitation crisis on Friday, Nov. 19, World Toilet Day,. It is part of the global humanitarian organization’s effort to help children stay healthy and stay in school.
Want to get involved? Here are some simple actions you can take on World Toilet Day:
Share (#worldtoiletday) and through email. The video highlights the importance of installing child-friendly toilets in schools for boys and girls so they have a private and convenient place to go to the bathroom.
Everybody does it, but nobody likes to talk about it. You probably don’t want to read a blog post about it. In short, poo is taboo. Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and sanitation are both neglected issues in part because people don’t want to talk about them. Both can be ugly; the disfiguring effects of an enlarged scrotum from lymphatic filariasis and the dangers of open defecation make for equally unpleasant dinner conversation. But today, on , take a minute to think about why you should give a crap about crap.
Gandhi once remarked that sanitation is more important than independence. This is a powerful statement coming from the leader of the Indian Independence movement. But let’s take a look at the numbers: 2.5 billion people don’t have access to proper sanitation. Of these 2.5 billion, about half are defecating in the open. Most illnesses are spread by fecal matter, and one gram of feces can contain up to 10 million viruses, one million bacteria, 1,000 parasite cysts and 100 parasite eggs. This is probably information you didn’t want to have, but for children in the developing world, sanitation is an issue of life or death. Diarrheal disease kills five times as many children as HIV/AIDS. This results in the deaths of 1.8 children every year. That’s 5,000 children every day! Diarrheal disease stunts growth, delays education, and eventually affects a country’s economy and the well-being of the nation.
Lack of improved sanitation is also directly related to the spread of NTDs. Of the seven most common NTDs, only one is not directly related to inadequate sanitation. Improving sanitation can reinforce public health gains achieved by de-worming programs by reducing transmission and preventing re-infection. Basic sanitation has been shown to reduce rates of schistosomiasis by 77%. A recent study conducted by the Ministry of Health of Zambia showed that blinding trachoma was 28% more likely to occur in households without improved sanitation.
So what can you do to observe World Toilet Day this year? You can participate in World Toilet Organization’s website and check out activities planned all over the world. Or, today, when you sit on the toilet, reflect on the fact that defecation is an inevitable human condition, but the diseases caused by lack of sanitation don’t have to be.
The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases is an initiative of the Sabin Vaccine Institute dedicated to raising the awareness, political will, and funding necessary to control and eliminate the seven most common neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). NTDs are a group of parasitic and bacterial diseases that disable and disfigure one in six people worldwide, including half a billion children.