As the sanitation manager for Glastonbury festival, Jane Healy is no stranger to thinking about toilets on a truly huge scale.

But even the 5,000 loos she looks after at the world’s largest greenfield festival seem small compared to the numbers needed at the Kumbh Mela Hindu festival in India.

A mass pilgrimage of faith, the event is held every 12 years. In 2016, it attracted more than 50 million people to Uijain in Madhya Pradesh.

“It’s almost impossible to provide enough toilets for the amount of people that will attend this event,” says Jane, who visited the Kumbh Mela site during her recent trip to India with WaterAid, to see the impact a lack of access to decent toilets is having on people’s lives.

“They’re trying. They have over 30,000 toilets which is an amazing amount; but for the number of people, it’s always going to be a struggle to have enough.”

‘This is every day. There is no let up.’

It’s not just visitors to the festival that struggle with a lack of access to a toilet.

On the outskirts of Uijain, Babita Singh and her family are forced to relieve themselves in an open wasteland, overlooked by a busy road, because they don’t have access to a safe, private toilet.

Babita often waits until it gets dark so people won’t see her, putting her safety at risk.

“We provide plenty of toilets at Glastonbury, but for five days people are exposed to that feeling of vulnerability because they don’t have one in their own tent,” says Jane.

“Babita doesn’t have the luxury of going home after five days and having her own toilet. This is every day, there’s no let up.”

Jane Healy (centre) stands with 30-year-old Babita (right) and members of her family outside her home in Madhya Pradesh, India.
Jane (centre) stands with Babita (far right) and members of Babita's family outside their home in Uijain, India.

774 million people living without a basic human right

Sadly, Babita isn't alone. 774 million people don’t have access to a toilet in India – more than the entire population of Europe.

Meanwhile 44% of the population still defecate in the open, making diseases spread fast. More than 140,000 children under five die each year from diarrhoea.

That’s why, at this year’s Glastonbury, our amazing team of volunteers won’t just be helping to keep the festival's toilets clean.

They’ll also be asking visitors to Worthy Farm to sign our Toilets Save Lives petition, which calls on the UK Government to explain how it will live up to the promises made in the Global Goals – including Goal 6, which aims to reach everyone everywhere with clean water and safe toilets by 2030.

“I truly love toilets and have a real passion for delivering toilets for Glastonbury that are good,” says Jane. 

“If you don’t have good toilets, I know how much of an effect that has on a festival, let alone a whole life.”

Find out more about WaterAid on Worthy Farm >