World Toilet Day: Delivering the Right to Water & Sanitation


Every year, November 19, the world celebrates an unglamorous day: World Toilet Day.

According to a report by United Nations:

“Around 2.4 billion people worldwide don’t have an access to toilets. This affects their health and their family’s health by making them prone to various ailments. Millions of people die because of lack of hygiene and sanitation which majorly comprise of children.”

Almost half of India’s 1.2 billion people do not have access to proper sanitation. This leads to spreading several types of diseases which often take the shape of an epidemic and leaving lakhs of people dying every year due to open defecation. What is scary is that in many remote areas, women have to relieve in the fields alone, sometimes even late at night. This leaves them to face physical assault quite frequently.

In a recent report by World Health Organization (WHO), it is stated that households with improper sanitation can be affected by deadly diseases like diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, hepatitis A and typhoid.

With an objective to raise awareness about world’s sanitation crisis, the United Nations marked the 3rd year of World Toilet Day celebration with the theme: “Toilets and Jobs”.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon mentions:

“About 17 percent of all workplace deaths are caused by disease transmission at work.”  

Workplaces that lack proper toilets affects the health of the workers leading to growing number of absenteeism, faster exhaustion, reduced concentration and decreased productivity. Records show that more than 17% of death among employed population occur due to disease transmission. The report further states that approximately $260 billion is lost each year due to polluted water and unhygienic sanitation.

Developing and underdeveloped countries are making positive moves to create proper sanitation for all. Government and NGOs, besides running sanitation awareness camps, have also started to build low-cost toilets to improve sanitation and offer better health and safety for the people of remote villages.

In India, under the Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin Programme, the government has built 2.7 crore household toilets and has declared 1.2 lakh villages, 60 districts, and 3 states as open defecation free (ODF). To mark the 150th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian government has taken a pledge to build a 100 million toilet and mark the country as ODF by 2019.

Top facts:

  • 2.4 billion People live without improved sanitation (World Health Organization (WHO)/UNICEF 2015).
  • One in ten people has no choice but to defecate in the open (WHO/UNICEF 2015).
  • Diarrhea caused by poor sanitation and unsafe water kills 315,000 children every year (WAS-Hwatch 2016).
  • Disease transmission at work mostly caused by poor sanitation and hygiene practices causes 17% of all workplace deaths (International Labour Organization (ILO) 2003).
  • Loss of productivity due to illnesses caused by lack of sanitation and poor hygiene practices is estimated to cost many countries up to 5% of GDP (Hutton 2012)

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