More safe bathrooms in the world, for sustainable development

Established by the United Nations in 2013, the event aims at tackling the global sanitation crisis

Established by the United Nations in 2013, the event aims at tackling the global sanitation crisis. "World Toilet Day" is included among the anniversaries of November.

Established by the United Nations on 19th November 2013, "World Toilet Day" aims to inform people of the fact that two and a half billion people in the world do not have access to basic sanitation, i.e. they do not have a bathroom at home, and 1 billion 800 thousand people consume water which could be contaminated with excrement, since there are no safe disposal systems.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (an action program for people, the planet and prosperity signed in September 2015 by the governments of the 193 member countries of the UN) includes 17 development objectives and addresses this problem in objective number 6: "to guarantee the availability and the sustainable management of water and sanitary facilities for everyone".

In addition to the data previously provided, according to reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), there are other figures that clearly show how close we are to the goal of 2030:

  • about 60% of the world's population - 4.5 billion people - have neither a bathroom at home or a way of safely disposing excrement.

  • 892 million people have no other option but to do what they need to do outside and this means that human feces, on a large scale, are not treated and taken away.

  • 1/5 of schools worldwide do not provide toilets

  • 900 million school children world wide have no hand washing facilities, vital in preventing the spread of deadly diseases

  • 80% of the world's waste water that is generated by society comes back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused.

According to the United Nations Regional Information Center (UNRIC), "Toilets are fundamental for human and environmental health, as well as for individual opportunities, development and dignity. In fact, it is a human right to have clean water and adequate sanitation. Toilets help to increase Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Studies indicate strong links between universal access to sanitation and the surge in sectors that drive economic growth and this results in an excellent economic investment: for every dollar invested, they earn 5.50 in health and infrastructure costs.

We can still read on the United Nations Regional Information Centre Website (UNRIC) that toilets reduce social spending. They are among the most effective public investments and help create good manners. Every year, children miss more than 272 million days of school because of diarrhea. The contamination of local aquifers can lead to high maintenance and pest control costs. Health services greatly influence tourism, since it affects the choice of destinations. Access to safe toilets clearly benefits women and girls at risk of harassment (many young girls around the world begin to skip days at school when they enter puberty because of the lack of bathrooms in schools). Finally, the presence of toilets at home makes home care immensely easier for people with physical disabilities or for the elderly".

There is also another aspect that the UNRIC highlights, and this is linked to pollution: "without adequate sanitation systems, human waste penetrates into the ground and re-emerges in surface waters. Feces contaminate the earth. In developing countries, about 90% of sewage is poured into the rivers and seas without filtration. Water pollution costs Southeast Asia more than $2 billion a year, mainly due to the loss of arable land.

As a result, achieving the 2030 goal will not only contribute to improving health and combating child mortality, but, in the long term, will eradicate extreme poverty more effectively and make the environment healthier.

Every year World Toilet Day has a theme. In 2018 it was "baths and nature". 'When nature calls,' we read on the site dedicated to this day, 'we must listen and act.' Nature-based solutions (NBS) for sanitation and water crisis exploit the power of ecosystems to help treat human waste before it returns to the environment. Most NBS essentially concern the protection and management of vegetation, soil and / or wetlands, including rivers and lakes. For example:

  • Composting latrines that collect and treat human waste on site, producing a free supply of fertilizers to help grow crops,

  • Wetlands and man-made reed beds filter waste water before they are released into watercourses.

In short, to build sanitation and health systems that work in harmony with ecosystems and that give everyone the chance to have guaranteed privacy, hygiene, clean water and land.

'Failure to achieve the goal of guaranteeing the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation facilities to all,' concludes the site, 'puts the entire Sustainable Development Agenda at risk.'