Could you live without a toilet?
As COVID-19 thrusts the importance of good sanitation into the limelight, the United Nations reveals it may not meet the sustainable development goal for water and sanitation set for 2030. World Toilet Day is a chance to assess the pressing needs that are yet to be met
A young Zambian girl [picture above] demonstrates how her dignity is compromised when having to squat in the open to defecate, because her home lacks a toilet. Slow progress on fulfilling the United Nations’ goal to ‘ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all’ by 2030 is weakening global ability to combat and prevent pandemics.
Valeria’s family have no latrine, so are forced to wrap faeces in paper and dispose of it with their household waste. The family migrated to Colombia after the economic crisis in Venezuela, and have made their home in an informal settlement with no water supply
2bn people still did not have basic sanitation facilities such as toilets or latrines in 2017, and of these, 673m had no choice but to defecate in the open, for example in street gutters, behind bushes or into open bodies of water. The United Nations says its target for clean water and sanitation by the end of the decade is ‘alarmingly off track’.
Villagers in Burundi are shown an innovative way to wash their hands by international development charity Tearfund’s local partner - without touching the bottle. Hand washing is a cheap, easy and effective way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus but in the least developed countries in 2017, only 28% of people had a basic hand washing facility with soap and water at home.
Nur [pictured above], whose home is a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh, is one of 79.5 million people who are forcibly displaced worldwide. Agencies such as Tearfund work to provide decent sanitation but contend with problems such as overcrowding, and the siting of camps in areas prone to landslip and flooding.
Like many elderly and disabled people, Ada, from Malawi, is unable to access a latrine alone and has to suffer the indignity of being accompanied. About 15% of the world's population lives with some form of disability and this figure is rising, partly due to the spread of chronic disease and an ageing population.
Teenage girls may miss education if schools are unable to provide the sanitation facilities they need to manage menstrual hygiene. In 2016, 47% of schools worldwide lacked hand washing facilities with soap and water.
Many communities work together to end open defecation, design and manage their own facilities, and use locally-available construction materials. Desiré Nduwayo [pictured], secretary of a self-help group in rural Burundi, builds a new school toilet. The project was facilitated by Tearfund's local partner, but driven by the community.
Edna Maria da Silva [pictured by her community well in Brazil] regularly walked 7km from her home to collect water. Then her pastor linked the village with Tearfund’s local partner and they made plans to bring a supply to the village. The villagers dug trenches and laid pipes to carry well water over a kilometer into the communal tank. Edna’s children no longer miss school to help fetch water and she has used her extra time to acquire hair-dressing and manicure skills.
In Nepal the government and the people supported the idea of ‘one house, one latrine’ before the 2015 earthquake hit, so Tearfund’s local partner was able to employ this expectation to help the community build back even better. Ram Prasad Sapkota [pictured] sits on the gravity-fed water tank in his village. Respected by the community, he was elected to chair the water and sanitation user committee, and maintain the supply system for the villagers.
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