Tag Archives: World Toilet Day 2009

Stinking data: 600mn Indians have no toilets!

No one would ever call Radha Jagarya fortunate. The 45-year-old widow and her four children live on the pavement in an upmarket south Mumbai suburb, scraping a living by selling flowers to passing motorists.

But in terms of public toilet provision, the family is well-served compared with other areas, with an adequate communal block a five-minute walk away near the US Consulate and another under a busy road in the opposite direction.

In slum areas, where more than half of Mumbai lives, an average 81 people share a single toilet. In some places it rises to an eye-watering 273. Even the lowest average is still 58, according to local municipal authority figures.

Unsurprisingly, it is still common to see people squatting by roads and railway tracks or along the coast, openly defecating in the city that drives India’s economy and where some of the world’s richest people live.

The UN estimates that 600mn people or 55% of Indians still defecate outside, more than 60 years after the scrupulously clean independence leader Mahatma Gandhi first talked of the responsible disposal of human waste.

Jack Sim takes a very keen interest in such matters. As the founder and president of the World Toilet Organisation (WTO), he has made it his mission to improve sanitation across the globe.

For him, India has “a lot of work to do” to improve sanitation, not just because of its impact on health and the spread of diseases such as diarrhoea, which Unicef says kills 1,000 Indian children aged under five every day.

It also tarnishes the image of a country that likes to portray itself as an emerging world economic superpower, the Singapore businessman said on a visit to Mumbai, where he was promoting World Toilet Day on November 19.

In particular, Sim questioned whether the authorities in New Delhi were doing enough to provide adequate public toilet facilities for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, which will draw tens of thousands of foreign visitors.

“If you don’t have good toilets to welcome tourists, they don’t come and won’t go to all your beautiful sites,” he said.

Public toilet provision in Mumbai – and other cities – faces the same problem affecting housing, water and other basic services: supply cannot keep up with demand as India’s population explodes.

In March 2009, Mumbai’s municipal authorities said there were 77,526 toilets in slum areas and 64,157 more were needed. Work is in progress on only 6,050.

Yet the UN’s Mumbai Human Development Report 2009, published earlier this month, points out that even where public toilets exist, most have no running water, drainage or electricity, making them unhygienic and unusable.

Embarrassment means women and girls often wait all day until it is dark to go to the toilet, increasing their chances of infections and exposing them to violence or even snake bites as they seek out remote places.

Poor sanitation and the illnesses it causes cost the Indian economy Rs12bn ($255mn) a year, according to the health ministry.

Sim, who sees links between public lavatories and social development, wants the issue pushed up the political agenda, urging people to “talk more about toilets.”

“People go to the toilet more often than they have sex,” he said. “Everybody has to go.

“It needs to be a very nice experience. It needs to be safe, it needs to be hygienic, it must not cause problems to your health and we need to feel emotionally engaged with the toilet.”

Private sector involvement could help cut the number of people in India and other developing countries who have no sanitation – estimated at 2.6bn – while more schemes are needed to make open defecation socially unacceptable, he said.

In the northern state of Haryana, a successful “No Toilet, No Wife” campaign has been running, urging women to turn down suitors if they cannot provide them a house with a lavatory.

“Every problem is a business,” said Sim, adding there would be a benefit for the entire city and the country’s economy if every slum-dweller had access to proper sanitation.

“People who are healthy are able to produce more, they get out of poverty, they get into the middle class, they move up and consume more,” he said.

“Business is, I think, the fastest and the cheapest way… The private sector will come up with innovations. Let them compete to serve the poor.”

Source: AFP/Mumbai / Gulf Times, 27 Nov 2009

ToiletFinder UK for iPhone

WaterAid is offering an iPhone application “ToiletFinder UK” using geolocation to find public toilets in the UK.

The application locates the nearest public toilet(s) and displays them in map or list format.

It is also a User Generated Content (UGC) application, as the toilet database is created entirely by users, who can add new or flag missing toilets.

To get the application, download it from the Apple Store using iTunes, or directly on your iPhone. Just search for “ToiletFinder”.

The application is free, but WaterAid hopes users will be encouraged to make a small donation vi atheir web site.

ToiletFinder UK was created for World Toilet Day by French agency BeTomorrow and is currently only available on the iPhone.

Earlier, the US NGO Africare, developed an iPhone application as part of its “Pass It On! fund raising campaign.

U.N. rights experts call for proper toilets in prisons

People held in jails and other detention centres around the world frequently have no access to clean toilets; a violation of their basic human rights, three United Nations investigators said Wednesday.

In statements marking World Toilet Day, marked on November 19 since 2001, they said states and governments had the obligation to ensure that all prisoners could enjoy safe sanitation.

“Without it, detention conditions are inhumane, and contrary to the basic human dignity that underpins all human rights,” the investigators — on torture, access to water and sanitation, and the right to the best possible health, declared jointly.

World Toilet Day is promoted by the World Toilet Organization, founded in 2001 by Singapore entrepreneur Jack Sim as a global non-profit network aiming to improve sanitation and public health policies.

“In too many places, detainees in prisons, migrant detention centres, juvenile institutions, psychiatric hospitals and other state-run institutions are forgotten,” said Manfred Nowak, special rapporteur on torture to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Anand Grover, rapporteur on the right to the highest attainable standard of health, said unsanitary conditions “directly cause many diseases rife in places of detention.

“Access to sanitation is fundamental for a life in dignity, which all people are entitled to,” declared Catarina de Albuquerque, U.N. independent expert on human rights and access to sanitation.

“Even those convicted of heinous crimes must enjoy such basis rights,” she added.

Read the full OHCHR World Toilet Day statement.

Source: Jon Hemming, Reuters, 19 Nov 2009 [based on the UN news press release]

Margaret Batty – Kick up a stink for better sanitation

Photograph by Martin Angles

On World Toilet Day, think of the 1.2 billion people with no loo, and the 2 million children a year who die through poor sanitation.

In this age of spin, what politician wants to be seen to be talking shit? But if only a few more of them would do so, it could save millions of lives.

We all take a clean and safe toilet for granted but more than one in three people around the world have nowhere to go to the loo, that’s a staggering 2.5 billion people.

To mark World Toilet Day, let me ask you to imagine for just one moment the indignity of life without a loo. If you’re a woman you might only go to the toilet when it’s dark, often having to walk long distances to find an isolated spot, exposing yourself to the danger of sexual harassment, assault and animal attacks, never mind the discomfort and resulting illnesses caused by poor sanitation.

About 1.2 billion people habitually defecate in the open – in fields, in gutters and in bushes. That’s 165m litres of excreta every day – enough to fill the Houses of Parliament two and a half times over.

It was 150 years ago that the stench of raw sewage in the Thames was so vile that MPs were forced to take action on sanitation. The resulting expansion of sewerage systems in the 1890s contributed to an unprecedented reduction in child deaths. It’s hard to imagine any other single intervention in this country that has brought greater public health returns. This is perhaps why the readers of the British Medical Journal last year voted sanitation the single greatest medical advance in the last 150 years, ahead of antibiotics or anesthesia.

For World Toilet Day 2009, WaterAid is calling on Gordon Brown to make toilets a development priority. The World Bank suggests that lack of access to sanitation – alongside safe drinking water – costs developing countries up to 9% of their annual GDP; more than 400m school days are lost every year from associated illness such as diarrhoea; and, in sub-Saharan Africa, half of all hospital beds at any one time are occupied by people suffering from these diseases.

But the hardest statistic of all to stomach is the cost in children’s lives. Existing evidence suggests poor sanitation may be linked to the deaths of more than 2 million children annually causing more child deaths than HIV/Aids, malaria and tuberculosis combined.

As history has shown, the potential of sanitation to deliver far-reaching development outcomes is huge. And the economic case is sound. Fewer people get sick, meaning they can work, earning precious money to support their families; children can go to school and hospitals are no longer overwhelmed by people suffering preventable diseases such as diarrhoea. With far-reaching consequences like these, sanitation and safe water are the fundamental building blocks of development.

Given the scale of the crisis, and the potential benefits on offer, why has there been no great stink? Why are politicians still not talking about this crisis? Perhaps one reason is that the burden of this crisis is borne so disproportionately by women and children and those in extreme poverty – the very people who have little or no voice when decisions are made.

But maybe it’s more simple than that. Can you think of a single politician who’s had their photo taken at the grand opening of a new toilet block? Health centres and schools are far easier, dare I say sexier, ideas to sell. Yet this is exactly what is needed: strong leadership, sanitation superheroes if you like, who are prepared to talk shit and address this global crisis with the political attention it deserves.

With the first ever High Level Meeting on Water and Sanitation taking place in Washington next April, the G8 meeting in Canada, and the UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG) Review in September, there is a real opportunity over the coming months to build momentum and push sanitation up the agenda.

Based on current trends, the MDG target – to halve the proportion of people without access to adequate sanitation by 2015 – will not be met until 2108 in sub-Saharan Africa, about a hundred years too late. In the face of this terrible lack of progress, leaders must use these high-level meetings to deliver binding commitments matched with concrete action plans. Without this action on sanitation, gains in other development sectors – such as in health and education – stand to be undermined.

Of course it’s not only governments who can make a difference. The public also has a crucial role to play in ensuring that people across the globe have a safe and clean place to spend a penny.

Join us in our plea to Brown to become a sanitation champion by adding your voice to our petition.

Source – The Guardian, Nov. 19, 2009

The ‘big squat’ to take a stand on sanitation – Jack Sim in Chennai

Jack Sim, founder, World Toilet Organization (the other WTO, as he puts it) was in Chennai [India] for an awareness drive ahead of World Toilet Day on November 19. “WTO is an advocacy group. We don’t actually build toilets; we partner with organisations across the world and share knowledge and experience,” says Sim.

He says many people have TVs and mobile phones but no toilets. “It’s about prioritising sanitation; 40% of the world has no access to proper toilets. Sanitation is about making people aware of the relationship between hygiene and health,” he says.

WTO which has over 200 partners worldwide, 42 of which are in India is one of the few organisations that focusses only on sanitation and toilets instead of water. “Everyone clubs water and sanitation, and 95% of the funds go towards water projects. But good sanitation is the first step towards clean water,” he says.

Sim started “the other WTO” in 2001 to disseminate serious facts with a sense of humour. The logo is a toilet seat shaped like a heart. “I thought the best way to break the toilet taboo was to use lots of puns.” But the name, which everyone thinks is “really bad at first” sticks in people’s minds. “That’s because every mother has told her child not to talk about the toilet. It’s not polite’. And here we are talking about the loo quite freely,” says Sim, who is often called Toilet Man.

And it’s not just about getting toilets installed. “You have to keep them clean too. So Sim has started the World Toilet College in Singapore that provides training in toilet maintenance and design. “I’m hoping we can open one in India too to train toilet cleaners like technicians.”

He believes people need to be given incentives to keep toilets clean. “For instance, for a city or a mall, tell them how many tourists or customers they’re losing because they have bad toilets. In a rural area or slum, get the community involved by making them paint the toilet, bright and colourful, so that they feel proud of it and keep it clean,” he says. “You need to create an emotional connect with the toilet. If you keep scolding people, it’s not going to work.”

This year, for World Toilet Day, WTO is planning a Big Squat. “We’re getting people all over the world to squat together in public places and take a picture. It’s a fun way to get the message across and make people laugh,” he says. World Toilet Day, according to him, provides the legitimacy for people to talk about toilets openly. “Toilets are like sex, everyone wants to discuss it, but is waiting for someone else to break the taboo.”

Source: Shalini Umachandran, Times of India, 11 Nov 2009

BBC News – Book launching on World Toilet Day 2009

Bog bards flushed about new book

A Shetland project which aims to put new writing in public toilets attracted poets from all over the world.

Now a book of the best 24 Bards in the Bog poems is to be launched on World Toilet Day.

The final selection of work was made by 2009 TS Eliot prize winner Jen Hadfield.

All profits from the book will be donated to the World Toilet Organisation which is committed to improving global sanitation.

The competition was launched in February by the Shetland Islands Council Library Service.

Entries were received from countries such as Poland, France, Canada and the US, as well as many from throughout the UK.

The library service wanted to give budding writers the chance to get their work read and also bring poetry to a wider audience.

Better sanitation

They had almost a captive audience, as the poems were displayed on the inside of toilet cubicles in public buildings all across the isles.

Local councillor Gussie Angus said: “This low-cost project has had far-reaching effects, with many people reading poetry for the first time in many years.”

The new publication will be launched at the Shetland Library on Thursday 19 November to coincide with World Toilet Day.

According to the World Toilet Organisation over 2.5bn people are without access to proper sanitation, which risks their health, strips their dignity and kills more than 1.8m people a year.

On Friday 20 November a special gala evening of poetry will be held in the Shetland Library.

All 24 poems will be read aloud by some of the local writers who feature in the book.

There will also be toilet-themed music and a chance to buy the new publication, which costs £5.

Story from BBC NEWS – 2009/11/14

A luxury item? WaterAid releases World Toilet Day video

In the run up to World Toilet Day on 19 November, WaterAid has released a new short highlighting the global sanitation scandal.

Viewers who promote the film can join the “bog-roll of honour” by posting a message on the WaterAid web site.