Co-ordinated by UN-Water in collaboration with governments and partners, World Toilet Day aims to tackle the global sanitation crisis.
The event aims to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 6, which promises sanitation for all by 2030.
It also highlights the simple but important fact that toilets save lives by stopping the spread of killer diseases. For billions of people around the world, sanitation systems are either non-existent or ineffective.
- Two billion people live without safely managed sanitation
- 673 million people still practise open defecation worldwide
- Inadequate sanitation is estimated to cause 432,000 diarrhoeal deaths every year and is a major factor in diseases such as intestinal worms, trachoma and schistosomiasis
- 297,000 children under five are estimated to die each year from diarrhoea as a result of unsafe drinking water, sanitation and hand hygiene
- Children under the age of five living in countries affected by protracted conflict are, on average, nearly 20 times more likely to die from diarrhoeal diseases caused by a lack of safe water, sanitation and hygiene than by direct violence
- Loss of productivity to water and sanitation-related diseases costs many countries up to 5% of GDP
This year’s theme is sustainable sanitation and climate change. The effects of climate change threaten safe sanitation systems around the world on a daily basis – from toilets to septic tanks to treatment plants.
Floodwater poses a particular problem, damaging toilets and spreading human waste into water supplies, food crops and people’s homes. These incidents are becoming more frequent as climate change worsens, causing public health emergencies and damaging the environment.
Sustainable sanitation systems, combined with the facilities and knowledge to practise good hygiene, are a strong defence against Covid-19 and future disease outbreaks. Additionally, wastewater and sludge from toilets contain valuable water, nutrients and energy.
Globally, 80% of the wastewater generated by society flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused. Sustainable sanitation systems make productive use of waste, to safely boost agriculture and reduce and capture emissions for greener energy.
Kevin Wellman, CEO of the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE) said: “It is mind blowing that the situation in many developing nations is currently so dire, with basic sanitation in some almost non-existent.”
Coronavirus vs public toilets
Closer to home, even first world countries have been experiencing toilet troubles associated with Covid-19. Not only have we been advised to flip down the toilet seat before we flush the toilet but it’s been increasingly hard to find publicly accessible toilets when away from home.
“The additional burdens of Covid-19 mean it’s never been more important that people everywhere have access to adequate toilet and hand washing facilities. That’s why it’s so vital events such as World Toilet Day inspire governments and organisations to find solutions to the global sanitation crisis,” Kevin added.
However, alongside the steady de-funding and closure of public toilets in the UK, Coronavirus has seen many facilities remain off limits. The effect on local economies has been huge, with people limiting their time away from home when accessing high streets and attractions, due to a lack of loos.
Social distancing restrictions
Worryingly, some high street and tourist destinations now have no operational public toilets at all, relying upon local businesses to open their toilets to the public.
However, with coronavirus restrictions in place, companies are far less likely to admit non-customers, especially when facing management of social distancing regulations and restrictions on how many can come through the doors.
A call for change
Talking on UK issues Kevin continued: “We also need to look at issues closer to home. Public toilets are a necessity and not a luxury, providing dignity, independence and safety to all.
“Simply following official public health advice means frequent hand washing is a high priority for keeping everyone safe from coronavirus.
“Add to this a fragile economy and a drive to get the public spending money on the High Street again, and the argument for councils to provide much needed public lavatories rings clear.”