Wanted collective action to end the world's sanitation crisis

14Nov 2019
Editor
The Guardian
Wanted collective action to end the world's sanitation crisis

World Toilet Day is an official United Nations international observance day on 19 November to inspire action to tackle the global sanitation crisis. Worldwide, 4.2 billion people live without "safely managed-

-sanitation" and around 673 million people practise open defecation. Sustainable Development Goal 6 aims to achieve sanitation for all and end open defecation. World Toilet Day exists to inform, engage and inspire people to take action toward achieving this goal.

World Toilet Day was established by the World Toilet Organization in 2001. Twelve years later, the UN General Assembly declared World Toilet Day an official UN day in 2013.

UN-Water is the official convener of World Toilet Day. UN-Water maintains the official World Toilet Day website and chooses a special theme for each year. In 2019 the theme is 'Leaving no one behind', which is the central theme of the Sustainable Development Goals. Themes in previous years include nature-based solutions, wastewater, toilets and jobs, and toilets and nutrition. World Toilet Day is marked by communications campaigns and other activities. Events are planned by UN entities, international organizations, local civil society organizations and volunteers to raise awareness and inspire action.

Toilets are important because access to a safe functioning toilet has a positive impact on public health, human dignity, and personal safety, especially for women. Sanitation systems that do not safely treat excreta allow the spread of disease. Serious soil-transmitted diseases and waterborne diseases such as cholera, diarrhea, typhoid, dysentery and schistosomiasis can result.

The overall World Toilet Day campaign mobilizes civil society, think tanks, non-governmental organizations, academics, corporations and the general public to participate in the associated social media and communications campaigns. Ultimately, the aim is to encourage organizations and governments to plan activities and action on sanitation issues to make progress on Sustainable Development Goal 6.

The WTO later the UN chose the name "World Toilet Day" and not "World Sanitation Day" for ease of public messaging. In fact, toilets are only the first stage of sanitation systems. World Toilet Day events and public awareness campaigns increase public awareness of the broader sanitation systems that include wastewater treatment, fecal sludge management, municipal solid waste management, storm water management, hygiene, and hand washing. Also, the UN Sustainable Development Goals call for more than just toilets. Goal 6 calls for adequate sanitation, which includes the whole system for assuring that waste is safely processed.

In 2013, a joint initiative between the government of Singapore and the World Toilet Organization led to Singapore's first UN resolution, named "Sanitation for All". The resolution calls for collective action to end the world's sanitation crisis. World Toilet Day was declared an official UN day in 2013. That resolution was adopted by 122 countries at the 67th session of the UN General Assembly in New York.

On World Toilet Day on 19 November 2015, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged broad action to renew efforts to provide access to adequate sanitation for all. He reminded everyone of the "Call to Action on Sanitation" which was launched in 2013, and the aim to end open defecation by 2025.