The worst place in the world to go to the toilet

‘It’s No Joke - State of the World’s Toilets’ released for World Toilet Day.


18 Nov 2015 | AU

The hardest place in the world to find a toilet and the developed nations which are among the surprising offenders are all revealed in WaterAid’s first “It’s No Joke - State of the World’s Toilets” report this World Toilet Day, 19 November.

An analysis of rates of access to sanitation for the world’s 193 countries has revealed some surprising figures. The world’s youngest country, South Sudan, has the worst household access to sanitation in the world, followed closely by Niger, Togo and Madagascar.

The report highlights the plight of more than 2.3 billion people in the world who do not have access to a safe, private toilet. Of these, nearly 1 billion have no choice but to defecate in the open – in fields, at roadsides or in bushes.

The result is a polluted environment in which diseases spread fast. An estimated 314,000 children under five die each year of diarrhoeal illness which could be prevented with safe water, good sanitation and good hygiene. Many more have their physical and cognitive development stunted through repeated bouts of diarrhoea; half of malnutrition is attributed to dirty water, poor sanitation and lack of hygiene.

Among the other findings:

• India, the world’s second-most populous country, holds the record for the most people waiting for sanitation (774 million) and the most people per square kilometre (173) practising open defecation.

• Papua New Guinea is the only country outside Sub-Saharan Africa to fall in the world’s hardest 12 countries in which to find a toilet, by percentage of population. Some 81% of people do not have a safe, private toilet to use.

• The tiny South Pacific island of Tokelau has made the most progress on delivering sanitation since 1990; impressively, Nepal and Cambodia come in the top 5 in this category.

• Nigeria has seen a dramatic slide in the number of people with access to toilets since 1990.

• Not everyone in the developed world has toilets. Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Sweden are among nations with measurable numbers still without safe, private household toilets; Russia has the lowest percentage of household toilets of all developed nations. In Australia it is reported that just about every single household in the country has a safe, private toilet.

WaterAid Australia’s Chief Executive Paul Nichols said:

“Recently we saw all member-states of the United Nations promise to deliver access to safe, private toilets to everyone everywhere by 2030. Our analysis shows just how many nations in the world are failing to give sanitation the political prioritisation and financing required. We also know that swift progress is possible, from the impressive advances in sanitation achieved in nations like Nepal and Vietnam. No matter where you are in the world, everyone has a right to a safe, private place to relieve themselves, and to live healthy and productive lives without the threat of illness from poor sanitation and hygiene.

“On World Toilet Day, it’s time for the world to make good on their promises and understand that the state of the world’s sanitation is no joke. Unfortunately, the Australian Government’s aid investment in water, sanitation and hygiene was cut by approximately $66.7 million in the 2015-2016 Federal Budget. As a result water, sanitation and hygiene aid investment is at its lowest proportionate level in a decade.

“We need the Australian Government and leaders worldwide to state publicly that sanitation is crucial and to prioritise and fund it accordingly. And it’s not enough to just deliver toilets. Transforming hygiene behaviours and making sure that everyone within a community is able to use a toilet – regardless of age, gender or ability – so that they are used by everyone is key to realising the full health benefits.”

The report can be accessed by clicking on this link:

This World Toilet Day, WaterAid is calling for:

• World leaders to fund, implement and account for progress towards the new UN Global Goals on sustainable development. Goal 6 – water, sanitation and hygiene for all – is fundamental to ending hunger and ensuring healthy lives, education and gender equality for all and must be a priority.

• Improving the state of the world’s toilets with political prioritisation and long-term increases in financing for water, sanitation and hygiene, by both national governments and donor countries like Australia.

• National governments to ensure that schools, healthcare facilities and birthing centres have safe toilets, clean running water and functional sinks and soap for handwashing, to reduce maternal, newborn and child deaths and strengthen children’s ability to attend school; and to include water, sanitation and hygiene in plans to address undernutrition and acute malnutrition.

• Aid to be directed to where it’s most needed, and the mobilising of domestic revenue to make water, sanitation and hygiene a priority. Many of the world’s poorest countries who are most in need of aid for sanitation and hygiene are receiving the least, because they don’t meet donors’ strategic priorities.  

About World Toilet Day:

• The first UN-declared World Toilet Day in 2013 highlighted the plight of one in three people around the world without access to decent toilets – a number that has changed little since then.

• WaterAid will be talking about the importance of toilets and sanitation on World Toilet Day with events around the world.

• In Australia, WaterAid is hosting an It’s No Joke Comedy Gala on 18 November in Melbourne and is also asking the public to share a joke on social media to show it’s no joke 2.3 billion people do not have a toilet (#itsnojoke), or suggesting people Pay to Pee by donating a gold coin every time they visit the loo.