The United Nations has marked this year’s World Toilet Day, 19 November, through the launch of its global campaign to value toilets.
“Who cares about toilets? 3.6 billion people do. Because they don’t have one that works properly.“
The purpose of the annual campaign is to raise awareness that an estimated 3.6 billion people live without access to safely managed sanitation. Poor sanitation contaminates drinking water resources and food crops and contaminated water spreads diseases. When some people in a community do not have safe toilets, everyone’s health is threatened
This year’s theme of valuing toilets draws attention to the fact that toilets – and the sanitation systems that support them – are underfunded, poorly managed or neglected in many parts of the world. The consequences for health, economics and the environment, particularly in the poorest and most marginalized communities are devastating.
The UN points out that there are significant advantages to investment in adequate sanitation systems. Every $1 investment in basic sanitation returns up to $5 in saved medical costs and increased productivity, and jobs are created along the entire service chain. Women and girls especially benefit from toilets at home, school and work particularly during menstruation and pregnancy.
The data is supported by WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene report – Progress on household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene 2000 - 2020 – which presents estimates on household access to safely managed drinking water, sanitation and hygiene services over the past five years, and assesses progress toward achieving the SDG 6 (“Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030”). For the first time, the report also presents emerging national data on menstrual health.
In 2020, around 1 in 4 people lacked safely managed drinking water in their homes and nearly half the world’s population lacked safely managed sanitation. The global spread of COVID-19 highlighted the urgent need to ensure everyone can access good hand hygiene. At the onset of the pandemic, 3 in 10 people worldwide could not wash their hands with soap and water within their homes.
“Handwashing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, yet millions of people across the world lack access to a reliable, safe supply of water,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Investment in water, sanitation and hygiene must be a global priority if we are to end this pandemic and build more resilient health systems.”
The UN is calling for a quadrupling of investment across the entire sanitation “value” chain to stimulate progress from the collection, transport and treatment of human waste in order to achieve the goals of SDG 6 by 2030.