When I browsed through a list of world commemorative days a few months ago and saw World Toilet Day, I rolled my eyes thinking what else is going to make it on the list, World Banana Day? Ok, this one may pass if you spin it into “International Day for Elimination of Banana Republics”. (I’m not hinting at anything).
Thinking again about why World Toilet Day, I imagined this scenario. You wake up during the night as usual to use your bathroom and to your chagrin; there is No Toilet. You rub your eyes a few times, look behind you or inside the shower and reckon you are dreaming and return to bed. A few hours later, you wake up rushing to work and this time you really need to use a toilet but once again Your Toilet is Gone! And this time you are not dreaming. Your bathtub or shower is still there and all the other bathroom stuff except the toilet.
You have more than one bathroom so you quickly go check the next one and nothing, that one is gone too. You are in disbelief recalling its color, shape and its exact last location. The windows and the door show no signs of a break in. Your toilet has not moved to the kitchen, living room or the patio either. It simply is not there, not even a gaping hole to mark where it once stood. What do you do? Call 911?
Maybe after interrogating your spouse, kids and the dog, you decide to go ask your neighbors if you can use theirs. You worry about how you are going to explain the situation and what they are going to think of you. As you walk out the door, you discover somewhat to your relief and horror that your mysterious dilemma is a breaking news disaster for the rest of the city too. Everyone is in the same pit; the rich and poor alike from the president to the homeless. All have lost their toilets; plain pans, colored ones, smart technology pots, those draped in frills and even the expensive ones made with gold and marble.
Fortunately you live in a developed world. The sanitation department quickly organizes mobile toilets but since no one ever anticipated this type of disaster, there are not enough to serve such a big city population. I don’t know what you all do next but I will leave the possible scenarios to your imagination.
I don’t mean to traumatise you, I usually don’t write about missing toilets. You may want to take a quick break from this terrifying tale and go check if your toilet has not been moved. I’m sure you will find it where you left it. It’s ok too if you want to take a moment to be thankful and vow never to take it for granted again.
The analogy given is little far-fetched. However what would be a nightmare scenario for you and me is a reality for at least 2.6 billion people around the world. These are people who do not have toilets of any kind, not even a pit latrine or the bucket system. They have to answer nature’s call in the open. A tree trunk or long grass is as private as it can get. Imagine that and let’s not even get into the luxury of toilet paper.
Lack of access to proper sanitation is not just a development and poverty problem. It is a human rights issue. It is a human suffering story that speaks about the dignity, health and safety of those facing this challenge.
It is about dignity because people should not bear the embarrassment of relieving themselves where they are exposed.
It’s about safety when you think of the possible violation of women and girls as they walk into the bushes to answer nature’s call.
It is about the health of everyone when poor sanitation leads to a contamination of food and water sources, leading to an outbreak of a myriad of diseases.
It is with the reality of these grim sanitation challenges faced by 40% of our relatives globally that World Toilet Day is observed annually on 19th November since 2001.
Several organizations and individuals have since heeded the call to action. You can donate your voice too by spreading awareness through traditional and social media. You can volunteer or donate money to organizations that provide sanitation solutions in affected regions. If you are in a rural area, you can help a neighbor to build a pit latrine. Those working for local government can make this crisis a strategic agenda and delivery item.
Creative, sustainable and eco-friendly solutions are endless; all we need is to do is take action.
Today, lets answer nature’s call to protect our collective dignity.
Love and Peace