Time to partake in a little numbers game. Statistics suggests that 2.5 billion people in the world, that is, 1 in 3 of the world’s population do not have the “luxury” to enjoy adequate sanitation, which can lead to the festering of a number of infections. According to the World Toilet Organisation, in 2013, as a result of the lack of hygienic conditions, 1000 children died per day from diarrhoeal diseases.
1 billion people defecate in public—a problem which leaves women and girls more vulnerable than any other demographic group. For women, the question is not just about privacy and dignity but also a matter of safety. Most women tend to wait till night to relieve themselves because of the lack of a toilet that provides them privacy, thereby risking rape and abuse and a lack of facilities has a domino effect. While menstruating, access to a private toilet and clean water is a matter of crucial importance. However, the lack of decent facilities have resulted in a high percentage of absenteeism among school girls and working women thereby lowering their productivity levels.
In October 2014, in India, PM Narendra Modi started the ‘Swachh Bharat’ campaign in order to promote cleanliness in India and one of the main aims of the program was to increase toilet facilities around the rural areas of the country. With 600 million people defecating in public, India stands at no. 1 as the country with the most amount of public defecators. It is estimated that with this campaign the government will be able to construct 12 crore toilets at a cost of Rs. 1.96 lakh crores.
Of course, there has been a significant increase in the facilities available around our country but there is still a long way left to go. This is an issue that requires our attention whether we are directly affected by it or not. Various organisations including the UN have been striving towards increasing awareness. In November 2014, in order to commemorate the World Toilet Day, a group called ‘My Toilet’ decided to publish a collection of photographs that would document both the positive and negative elements that women around the world deal with as a result of the sanitary conditions in their area. Their story suggested that despite the change in area and the type of toilets, the effects remained more or less the same. It doesn't matter where you are coming from or which class you belong to—having a toilet provides you with not just a better chance at hygiene and dignity but also education, employment and even safety.
Below is an excerpt of the entire documentation:
In the USA, every individual has the luxury of being able to use a clean toilet
Of course, it is not a matter of surprise that this country has achieved success in a development arena. However, it is also important to note that while completely equipped with public restrooms that has allowed them to be one of the few countries that have documented 100% sterile facilities for all, over 63% of its citizens are apprehensive about the hygiene levels of these facilities.
Only 1 in 5 Haitians have access to sanitary toilets
In Ecuador, 83% of women enjoy improved sanitary facilities
This Latin American country is home to a small population of 16.2 million people. It is a matter of great pride for this country that out of its total inhabitants, 13.4 million people have access to clean wash-rooms. The families that do not have access to running water use water from the wells to wash themselves.
More than a quarter of Brazil’s population have no access to clean water or sewage treatment
It is the people who live in the favelas (urban slums) that face the most challenges in this country. It was recorded that in 2000, only 35% of the collected waste-water was being treated in this country. While those who have the luxury of clean sanitary facilities know what they enjoy is a privilege, there are many like Lorena and Valeria who are deprived of it.
In UK, all 63.8 million citizens enjoy safe, aseptic amenities
The United Kingdom happens to be the next one in the list of the few who have managed to achieve the feat of providing proper toiletry provisions to its inhabitants. The narratives of June and Pauline recount the changes they have seen and the long way the whole nation has come from its initial stages.
Percentage of people in Belgium who defecate in public: 0%
While in many parts of the world, people don't even own a single wash-room in their name, the stories from Belgium tell us an entirely different story. Not only do they enjoy cleanliness and sterile conditions but very often their homes and schools are equipped with more than enough provisions making sure that no one ever has to deal with problems arising out of a lack of sanitation.
38% of Romania's population still awaits improved sanitary conditions
This European country happens to be one of the few places where every individual seems to enjoy the privilege of having a latrine facility near or within their homes. However, it is only 72% of it's population that enjoy improved sanitation facilities such as adequate disposal systems that prevent human, animal or insect contact with excreta. However, it is extremely commendable that many people, despite living in areas devoid of running water have worked out a system that allows them hygiene.
Over 8 in 10 women in Ghana have no access to safe latrines.
In Ethiopia, only 1 in 25 households have access to a toilet
Open pit latrines is the most common type of toilets found in Ethiopia. With many moving to the city, the awareness for proper waste disposal has increased but the need to actualise this is still very high. Meseret's story is relatable for most Ethiopian women and children, leaving the entire group receptive to many deadly infections and diseases.
In Kenya, Menstruation causes Kenyan adolescent girls to lose a collective average of 3.5 million learning days per month
65% of women and girls cannot afford sanitary napkins in this country, as a result of which many girls drop out of school once they hit puberty. In a country where 13% of its population still practice open defecation, the need for hygienic facilities for women is often forgotten. The compilation tells us the story of Teressiah, an 18-year-old pregnant girl who is forced to go to their neighbour’s house every time she needs to use the loo.
On the other hand, there are people like Eunice, the co-founder of Kasarani Academy in Naivasha who are doing their part in changing the situation. Earlier, the school only had 250 toilets which were being used and dirtied by the people who lived near-by. So they installed child-friendly toilets in the school, which are too small for the adults. A lot of people like Maka (pictured below) have also begun to install toilets within their homes.
Millions in Zambia defecate in cartons when they can't find a loo
In Zambia, more than one third of the population does not have access to clean water and more than half lacks access to proper sanitation facilities. In the situation sometimes gets to the extent that it is a common practice for people to just use the carton in which Shake-Shake, a traditional beer, is packeted in to dispose their waste.
46-year-old Susan, the founder of a community school for children with physical and mental disabilities, is differently-abled herself. She expresses her difficulties in being able to use the public rest-rooms especially during the rainy season.
As of 2015, only 21% of Mozambique's population enjoy sterile facilities
In countries like Mozambique where availability of clean water is is far below adequate levels, the burden of collecting water from far-off areas fall on the women and girls of the household. This not only results in a significant drop-out percentage among girls but also creates adverse conditions in terms of cleanliness. Very often, members are forced to share the toilets with not just their own family members but also several family members that live near-by, leaving the female population very vulnerable to abuse at the hands of their male counterparts.
For millions in South Africa, flush toilets are still a dream
In South Africa, it is a common practice for people to relieve themselves behind a bush, which is not just unhygienic but also extremely dangerous. Thalita and Nombini's accounts reveal to us the dangers associated with having to defecate in public. Chemical toilets called the Mshengu also happen to be common in the region. While they provide the women and children with the needed privacy, the exorbitant use of chemicals in the Mshengus cause a lot of skin infections and rashes.
In Madagascar, 39% of it's population still practice public defecation
In India, for many women having to relieve themselves means being stripped off their dignity
In a country where 600 million people defecate in the open because they have no access to toilets, the women seem to be facing a lot more than just having to deal with the embarrassment of relieving themselves in public. While most people living in the cities have the advantage of having homes equipped with with toilets, for many in rural areas this remains a dream. Many are forced to travel a long distance or even use the paddy fields, which leaves them vulnerable to abuse.
In Bangladesh, waste water from toilets enter local water bodies resulting in major infections
One-third of the urban population in Bangladesh does not enjoy clean sanitation facilities. They either have to walk long distance or use 'hanging toilets' that is often shared within a community. These public loos are generally in extremely damaged conditions making its users more susceptible to diseases. The elderly and those with any sort of disability face problems because they might take longer than the others, thereby angering those who are waiting. Very often , women wait until morning or until late to relieve themselves, which itself can cause a host of infections.
93% of Thailand's citizens have upgraded toilet provisions
Only 7% of it's total population is left to gain access to improved facilities like flush toilets. The accounts of Chutima, Sineha and Jidapa can be seen as a testament to the success the country has achieved in solving a problem that many countries around the world are still struggling with.
Only 8% of the rural population have access to sanitation facilities in Cambodia
According to Diageo, public sanitation exists only in 23% of the country's rural community. Very often people are forced to use rice paddies and even local water sources to dispose their waste making the entire area vulnerable to diseases. While most people like Mrs. Priem, are aware of the need for clean toilets and hygienic habits, they are unfortunately not blessed with the privilege of making it an everyday habit.
All 23.9 million Australians have the luxury of hygienic conditions in which they can 'relieve' themselves
After reading about the number of countries that are struggling with issues like lack of clean water or adequate measures to relieve themselves, it's particularly inspiring to note that countries like Australia that have managed to inculcate habits like washing your hands before eating and after going to toilets--a simple practice that actually can reduce the chances of diarrhoeal infections up to 50%.
Renne, an artist who lives outside the suburbs of Australia has built a shed on 10 acres of land with a toilet and bathroom on the outside, where she actually manages to enjoy complete solitude while being in the wild.
In Japan, modern facilities allow people to charge their phones within public rest-rooms
Japan has been one step ahead in their inventions. When countries boast about providing clean public wash-rooms for its citizens, this country has a lot more to flaunt. Here public loos are not only sterile but also provides its visitors with WiFi and music to make the experience much enjoyable than usual.
All images have been sourced from MyToilet, where you can view the entire documentation of the different sanitation facilities around the world.
Words: Krupa Joseph
Via Huffington Post