Australia helps carry the can on World Toilet Day

Article by Steven Ciobo, Australias Minister for International Development and the Pacific

In Australia, we love toilet humour. The 2006 comedy Kenny, which followed a portable toilet man about his daily business, was a local box office hit, and our televisions are awash with advertisements of puppies unravelling toilet tissue rolls around the house.

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United Nations staff installed a 15-door-high inflatable toilet to mark the World Toilet Day in front of the UN headquarters in New York on November 19, 2014. Photograph: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

We can see the funny side of toilets, because we’re able to use a toilet and wash our hands as often as we need. The Australian Department of Social Services publishes an online National Public Toilet Map so we can find, in a matter of seconds, the nearest of some 16,000 public toilets.

Unfortunately, for too many in the world, this is far from the case. According to United Nations estimates around 2.4 billion people, or a third of the world’s population, don’t have access to a basic toilet, leaving them exposed to the many diseases transferred through human waste, such as cholera, typhoid and dysentery. Approximately 946 million people defecate in the open, in fields, streams, forests and open city spaces, which puts entire communities at risk of diarrhoeal diseases.

On 19 November, the world will mark World Toilet Day. This year, the focus is on the link between toilets and nutrition. Regular bouts of diarrhoea caused by open defecation, poor hygiene and unclean water, contribute to poor nutrition, growth stunting and developmental impairment, preventing children from reaching their full potential. In 2014, the World Health Organisation reported 159 million children under five years of age suffer from growth stunting. Nearly 1,000 children die every day from diarrhoeal diseases and poor nutrition, making diarrhoea the world’s second leading disease killer of children . These children are missing valuable time at school and their families are forced to spend their limited incomes on medical care, which exacerbates the cycle of poverty.

Read the full article on the WSSCC Guardian partner zone.

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