This week’s blog from Laurie Loftin, Program Specialist with Water Conservation Office
I have a tough question for you. Which would you rather have, a mobile phone or a toilet? Hey, I told you it was a tough question. You use both every day, sometimes at the same time. There are “special” occasions when you do not want to be far away from either one. Both can allow for some quality reading time. Decision, decisions… I have my answer. If given a choice between my technological appendage and a potty, I take the potty. How about you?
I ask because a U.N. study found that out of the 7 billion residents on earth, 6 billion have access to a cell phone. And toilets? Only 4.5 billion. Do the math and you realize that in 2013 there are 2.5 billion people – one out of three – without access to basic sanitation. In the year 2013!!! Go ahead and check this fact on your mobile.
Here are three reasons why I believe a toilet is more important than my cell phone.
#1. No invention has saved more lives than a toilet. The CDC recognizes the control of infectious diseases as one of the Ten Great Health Achievements of the 20th century. The reduction of typhoid and cholera was a direct result of improved sanitation and clean water. But the toilet still has more good works it can do. In this day and age, diarrhea, something most in the U.S. consider an inconvenient annoyance, is the second leading cause of death among children under five. Martin Mogwanja of UNICEF notes that “we can reduce the cases of diarrhea in children under five by a third simply by expanding the access of communities to sanitation and eliminating open defecation.” The toilet saves lives and 2.5 billion people don’t have access.
#2. I am a woman. Not everyone can give this as their personal reason for choosing a toilet. But if you have a mother, wife, sister, or daughter, reason #2 is just as valid to any reader. Without a toilet, what is a lady to do? With no other choice than open defecation, women often have to walk alone and in the dark to do so. They are left vulnerable and defenseless to both physical and sexual violence. Lack of sanitation also interferes with a girl receiving an education. Women have different sanitation needs than men, particularly after adolescence. The taboo associated with menstruation and the lack of privacy a toilet can provide leads many girls to drop out of school, thus thrusting them into the cycle of poverty. Toilets provide dignity and hope, yet 2.5 billion people don’t have access.
#3. I appreciate my quality of life. Without proper sanitation, our cities would be a disgusting mess. Imagine the stench created from open piles of human waste. Envision raw sewage trickling and seeping into our creeks and rivers. Listen to the sounds of flies as they feast on and lay their eggs in the fecal matter. Not a pretty image is it. Thankfully, in most of the U.S. our toilets, infrastructure, and water reclamation facilities protect us from such daily filth. I can take a walk by the river on a beautiful fall day and breathe in the fresh air. My quality of life is grand. But this isn’t the reality for everyone. The water they drink, bathe, and play in is the same water the raw sewage flows into. The first description I gave is the reality for 2.5 billion people, all because they lack access to toilets and improved sanitation.
This brings me to World Toilet Day. Recognized on November 19, the purpose is to raise global awareness of the struggle billions face every day. I invite you to take a stand (or squat) with me and educate those you come in contact with, be it through text, phone call, or Facebook app, about the value of this powerful piece of porcelain. Help to break the taboo associated with our basic daily need. Get people talking. Start a movement. Organizations such as WorldToilet.org offer suggestions for how you can work to improve the lives of billions, be it donating money to organizing a mass squat. By realizing the value of the toilet and recognizing so many don’t have this standard household item, you take the first step to improving the quality of life for billions.
People really should not have to choose between a toilet and a cell phone. Everyone should have the luxury of taking the toilet for granted. Happy World Toilet Day.