World Toilet Day 2013 – Sanitation Matters
It may be that as we wonder in to the W.C to perform our morning ritual that we spend very little time thinking just how lucky we are. That shiny (or not so shiny) porcelain bowl may look innocuous but its impact has been far from it. The W.C, loo, crapper or whatever else you want to call it (except lavatory, a term which derives from the Latin, lavare, or wash, making the lavatory a wash basin; I don’t suppose you’ll be washing your hands in the toilet anytime soon, will you?) has been developed and refined over centuries in an effort to combat a really shitty problem; human waste.
Let us not forget however, it wasn’t so long ago that even here, in modern London, that we washed and drank water from the same source in which we dumped our bodily excretions; the beloved Thames. In 1858 the streets of London were cloaked in a fecal miasma, a foul smelling stench caused by the hellish combination of a record breaking heat wave and a giant river of shit. If you’ve ever been to Glastonbury Festival, imagine the week old, long drop toilets and multiply by that horror a thousand times over. So foul was the smell and so widespread the cholera, the City was forced to act and Britain’s first modern sewage system was born.
People actually gave a crap (if you’ll excuse the pun) and the urban toilet landscape started to take shape. Modern, clean and accessible toilets paved the way for better, healthier lives. Whilst urban landscapes shapes our toilet culture, the more rural amongst us often get left behind. A prime example being the adoption of cleaner toilets in rural Britain, most of whose residents were still using the garden privy until the late 1960’s.
Developed countries across the globe have all taken huge strides in engineering a better waste disposal system. Most marked, perhaps, has been the development of Japanese toilet culture, a country which sees the latrine as a technological playground, introducing everything from the remote controlled lid to the talking potty. One such incredible device is even capable of reading vital signs form your deposits.
So, whilst we marvel at the glory of the modern toilet, in all its variations, let us take a minute to think about the 2.5 billion people who lack access to improved sanitary facilities and the 1 billion people who still practice open defecation, yes that’s 1 billion people who face the indignity of going to the toilet without so much as curtain to protect their dignity. If a person has nowhere to go then neither does the poo, often festering, contaminating and causing unnecessary, expensive and often fatal health problems.
In Uganda the number of people using an improved sanitation facility increased by a paltry 4% in the 10 years between 2000 and 2010 (30-34%). At the turn of the decade, such poor growth contributed to the deaths of some 38,000 under-fives who died as a direct result of diarrhoea and pneumonia.
Sanitation is such an important facet of our existence, to have what we do in the West is a gift and not one that should be forgotten. When you next go to the toilet, remember what you have. Spare a moment for the child in Uganda who must use a bag, a bag which gets tossed onto the streets (known locally as a flying toilet) and is left to mingle with the animals, the children and anyone else who happens to wonder by.
It’s not just Ugandans who suffer in silence, some 69% of the sub-Saharan population still lack access to improved sanitation that’s 603,640,323 people, a quite astonishing figure. It’s no wonder that nearly 50% of all pneumonia and diarrhoea related child deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa.
When you next take a crap try and give one too, remember how lucky you are and give a shout out for World Toilet Day 2013 #WTD2013