Toilet humour might get a giggle, but the state of the world’s toilets is sadly no joke.

In our world today, more than 2.3 billion people do not have access to adequate sanitation. They have no choice but to use the nearby bushes, or behind their house, to relieve themselves. As you can imagine, when faeces is out in the open, and safe water and handwashing with soap are not available, families’ food, water and environment become contaminated. Diseases and infections are easily spread by flies and on hands. The results are costly… even deadly:

  • Thousands of parents lose young children every year to diarrhoeal illnesses. Almost 900 children under five die every day from diarrhoea caused by unsafe water and sanitation.
  • Repeated infections and diarrhoea cause undernutrition and stunting in children under five.
  • Sepsis and other infections kill many women during childbirth, and many newborn babies.
  • Girls and women are vulnerable to attack when they have nowhere safe to go to the toilet.

Here are some facts you may not be expecting…

More than 80% of the population in Burkina Faso live without adequate toilets. The consequence is a tragic - thousands of children die from diarrhoeal disease every year. Baowendsom (above) just lost her twin boy a few months ago and is in fear whenever baby Isaac is sick. “When [my baby son] is sick I feel every step of this disease. When he is vomiting this is also a pain for me. When he has fever I can also feel it, so when he is sick I’m in pain throughout…”

“I go to the toilet in nearby fields. How can you like it when there are lots of men around when you go to the toilet?” Kajal (in purple above) lives in a slum in India where toilets are lacking. Sadly, India has the highest number of people defecating in the open in the world.

Papua New Guinea is one of the 12 hardest countries in the world to find a toilet by percentage of population. With less than 20% of people having access to toilet, open defecation is common in the country.

Timor-Leste's infrastructure was badly damaged during the war for independence. And even today thousands of people lack such essentials as safe water and adequate toilets. Maria (in black above) says, “We do not have a toilet because there is no water. We go to the toilet outside.”

A loo for life

While toilets specifications vary from country to country (depending on exact community needs), families are involved and take ownership from start to finish – until they have their very own safe ‘very important room’.

When people use safe toilets, bacteria and viruses are contained and separated from water, food and flies. This is vital to stop diseases spreading. Baowendsom’s husband, Jeremie, says, “The reason I think that it will reduce all these diseases is that if you don’t defecate in the open and you do it in the pit I think this will reduce the diseases.”

Join us to help communities build their own safe and ‘very important room’.

(Data from WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme Report 2015 Update and WaterAid It’s No Joke: The State of the World’s Toilets 2015)

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