HUNTSVILLE, Texas – Imagine living without a toilet. It is a fundamental necessity in our daily lives, yet many overlook just how important it is. Those living in wealthy areas may even take things like indoor plumbing for granted. Moreover, living without the privacy of a bathroom tends to make many people embarrassed, ashamed or squeamish. However, one in three people in the world do not have the luxury of being squeamish; these people do not have access to a toilet.
Every 20 seconds, a child dies from an illness connected to dirty water. Today alone, 200 million hours will be spent collecting water. But the fact of the matter is that it is a lot more than just a moral issue. It also affects the economy, education and healthcare.
These 2.5 billion people are frequently exposed to human waste. Consequently, diarrhea and related illnesses run rampant in these societies, killing more than two thousand children a day. Survivors are, furthermore, at risk for physical and cognitive dysfunctions as they grow up. In fact, older children, mostly girls, tend to drop out of school when there is no access to safe sanitation.
These effects, which can take as much as 6.4% of GDP away from countries, accumulate and spread throughout the society as well as the economy, frustrating foreign aid efforts and possibly destabilizing entire regions.
A recent World Bank estimation claimed the untapped market for improved sanitation services in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Peru and Tanzania alone could reach $260 billion. Addressing this problem, then, not only assists the affected people in terms of health, but by encouraging innovation and constant positive growth, it helps them to begin helping themselves.
To bring awareness to a deserving issue like this one, it must be talked about. Recognized by the United Nations annually on November 19, World Toilet Day aims to break the taboo around toilets while also drawing attention to this issue. Since its establishment in 2001, World Toilet Day has become a major platform to educate and demand action from governments regarding this issue.
Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) called attention to World Toilet Day in a recent update about H.R. 2901 (also known as the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act.)
“The concept of a World Toilet Day can make children giggle, some adults blush and others change the subject,” Blumenauer said. “But the title is designed to take a most serious subject head on. The world can no longer afford to be squeamish, make jokes, or change the subject about the fundamental issue of access to adequate sanitation. That’s because 2.5 billion people live without it, which leads to 700,000 premature deaths each year, and it’s getting worse.”
The aforementioned bill is meant to strengthen the implementation of the Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005 by improving the capacity of the United States Government to implement, leverage, monitor and evaluate programs to provide first-time or improved access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene to the world’s poorest on an equitable and sustainable basis, and for other purposes. The bill even has bi-partisan support from people like Senator Bob Corker (R-TN).
People can help by contacting their U.S. Senators and Representatives and voicing support for H.R. 2901. They can get involved in the current World Toilet Day campaign (known as We Can’t Wait) by following them on Twitter or tweeting #wecantwait to help spread awareness for the cause.
– Samantha Davis