Today is World Toilet Day. In 2001, on November 19, World Toilet Organization, an NGO, was formed with a view to improving toilet and sanitation conditions all over the world. Since then, this day is observed as world toilet day by the 53 member-countries of this organisation and by international and civil society bodies all across the globe. However, it was only last year, in 2013, that the day was formally recognised by the United Nations General Assembly and was declared as the World Toilet Day. November 19 this year is therefore the second annual World Toilet Day. This is coordinated by UN-Water, a UN inter-agency set-up, in association with Governments and important stakeholders.
It has been stated in the World Toilet Organization’s 2013 Annual Report that around 2.5 billion people all over the world do not have access to toilets. In spite of the universal right to water and sanitation, it is sad that around 1 billion people in the world still regularly defecate in the open.
The World Toilet Day is celebrated as a day to raise awareness about this problem. This is an initiative taken by the United Nations to replace silence with action, and to make sure that all political leaders work together to meet the Millennium Development Goal, that includes provision and improvement in sanitation for the world’s poorest.
Theme for World Toilet Day 2014: Equality and Dignity
This year the theme is ‘Equality and Dignity’. The idea behind this theme is to take appropriate actions to end open defecation and emphasise on how to achieve improved sanitation so that there is reduction or end to assault and violence on women and girls.
There is no doubt, for women and girls to defecate in the open means that human safety and dignity are at stake. Women and girls risk rape and abuse when they go out at odd hours to relieve themselves because of absence of toilet facilities which also infringes privacy.
Even in the areas where toilets are available there are drawbacks in usability. There is lack of toilets for people with special needs, the disabled, and the elderly, there is lack of running water facilities in the toilets to manage menstrual hygiene for girls and women and so on. No toilets for these people means they are excluded from opportunities to go to work or attend school. Access to toilets can help to keep children in school and avoid other problems.
Since there are inequalities involved in areas with toilets as well, the theme for the year is, ‘Equality and Dignity’.
Some hard facts about water and toilet problems
- Of the 1 billion people in the world who have no toilets, India accounts for almost 600 million.
- Medical studies have shown that 1 gram of human fecal matter relieved in the open can be the cause of 50 communicable diseases, harbouring 10 million viruses, 1 million bacteria, 1,000 parasite cysts and 100 worm eggs.
- About half of world’s hospital beds are occupied by those with water-borne diseases.
- On an average, around 1,400 children die every day on account of diarrhoea caused by contaminated water and poor sanitation.
- More people in the world have a mobile phone rather than a toilet.
- Lack of sanitation kills more people every year than war and violence.
- Girls drop out of school due to lack of sanitation and toilet facilities.
- Last but not the least, every $ saved in sanitation can save 7$ in health costs.
Swachh Bharat Abhiyan: India and World Toilet Day
On October 2 this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan or the Clean Bharat Mission with the objective of providing toilets and sanitation, running water facilities to all the people of India, and to make the country clean by 2019. Many people all over the country, the political leaders, the celebrities from the sports and films fraternity, various private and public organisations, NGOs, the religious organisations, including the common man and the children have all come forward to make this mission a great success.
Photographs of toilets being constructed to be uploaded
On World Toilet Day, a circular has been issued by the Government that henceforth all Government-appointed surveyors will have to upload photographs of the toilets under construction. This is in connection with the Management Information System (MIS) to keep a sound track of the ongoing process of toilet construction in various areas of the country. In fact, this is to avoid any false claims by people on toilets being constructed under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. The idea is to strengthen the monitoring system.
- Photographs of toilet being constructed under the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan from April 2014 and all new toilets from October 2 under the Swachh Bharat Mission need to be uploaded.
- The photographs uploaded should also include the reporting of each individual household latrine (IHHL) during data entry of progress every month.
- The photographs of the IHHLs reported constructed from April 1 till October 2014 should also be uploaded.
- The surveyors can use their own Android mobile phones. However, the expenses need not be borne by them.
- In the States, the Principal Secretaries or Secretaries in-charge have been asked to monitor rural sanitation.
Delhi observes World Toilet Day
A three-day international toilet festival was organised on the eve of the World Toilet Day in the national Capital by the Sulabh International, which works to promote sanitation. The aim was to spread the message of cleanliness and sanitation as defecating in the open is a common sight. About 900 students and delegates from countries like Sri Lanka, Laos, Vietnam, Bhutan, Nepal and Afghanistan participated. Each participant took an oath of cleanliness, calling for toilets and clean surroundings in keeping with Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Women from Nayi Disha, an NGO, also took part in this festival. Students and others joined in a rally holding banners, replicas of toilet seats and steel cans, and shouting slogans of cleanliness. Thousands of balloons with messages of cleanliness and sanitation were also released on the occasion.
Suman Chahar, senior vice-president, Sulabh International, said, “The Government of India has already launched the mission for toilets for all and we are joining to ensure its success.”
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