Here is our bold idea for world toilet day 2012 … Eradicate Open Defecation!

November 19 is World Toilet Day!

Let’s reflect on that a moment … for all those in the world with toilets to sit on, that may indeed be a very good place to reflect!

Unfortunately 2.6 Billion people are without a safe place to go. It is November 2012 and yet almost 40% of our World’s population does not have a safe hygienic place to do what is a universal, natural and a daily occurrence – for most of us. This does not mean people hold it in – each one of them go – but all over the place. In India alone, over 50% of its population that is over half a billion people still defecate in the open. Imagine the public health impact of all this ‘human excreta’ just lying around, being tracked into homes on shoes, contaminating our water sources, etc.

Added to that, and often because of it, almost 1 billion people, do not have access to clean water. Of-course, without water and toilets – hygiene education, a simple thing like washing hands before eating or after the toilet becomes very difficult.

Let’s dig a little deeper. Close to 50% of developing world schools do not have a water connection. 70% do not have toilets. This is the way so many of our next generation- our future-start life. I was appalled while visiting one of the schools, that I worked with in India, when the female teachers explained to me that they walked down the road to a friend’s place every time they needed to go to the toilet as there wasn’t one in school. Not for them, not for the students. Girls drop out of school every day- particularly pubescent girls – who have no privacy when they most need it. Or young women who carry water to homes from a source miles away.

The health impact of this crisis is enormous.

Over 4000 children die per day of water borne diseases. 50% of hospital beds in the developing world at any given time are full of people with water borne illnesses. Diarrhea spares no one and takes its toll- as we may have noticed ourselves when we travel. The Economic impact of lost work-days due to sickness or contaminated water has a clear impact on the GDP of nations.

The economics of addressing sanitation makes sense.

Research shows that – no other public health intervention has a better economic return. $1 for increased sanitation= average of $8 in economic benefit!

At WASH Canada, we think it is time for a paradigm shift.

Our bold idea (certainly not unique to us but one we firmly believe in), is to Eradicate Open Defecation. Forget about lessening the numbers, halving the number by 2015 as laid out in the MDGs etc. No short measures – we believe the only way forward is bringing the number to zero!

Yes this has been done before, we can learn from great successful initiatives in the recent past polio, smallpox – etc. It is easier to remember and monitor your initiative when your end goal is simple – zero.

Let’s look closely at polio. The end goal was ‘no polio’. This process involved just about everyone. Developed world and developing world governments, communities, NGO’s, Rotary clubs, educators, researches, technologies, vaccines, public health professionals, doctors, women – all united with a simple end goal. Doing what it takes to get the number down to zero.

Not any one of us alone can tackle the crisis. Together if we align ourselves to a simple end-goal, we will be unstoppable. Agreeing that the only acceptable end result of our work in not lessening but eradicating open defection. Not accepting that 2.6 Billion do not have a safe place to go is, we believe, the way forward.


By joining our voices, our unique talents, our resources, our ideas, collaborating on the end goal – we will be an unstoppable force – leading the way.

Join us – if you haven’t already!



No comments yet.

Leave a Reply