World Toilet Day

When we see the acronym “WTO,” we typically think World Trade Organization.  But there is another WTO, one that is much more important and fundamental—the World Toilet Organization.  It was founded on November 19, 2001.  And, therefore, the United Nations has designated November 19 each year as World Toilet Day.

            You can make all the jokes you wish—is this the world’s number two problem?—but sanitation is a major issue around the world.  According to the United Nations, 4.2 billion people live without “safely managed sanitation,” which means toilet facilities that effectively collect, treat and dispose of human wastes, and do it so people are safe and dignified.  Nearly 700 million people have no sanitation facilities at all, so they defecate on the ground—not sanitary, not safe, not dignified.

Jack Sim, the founder of World Toilet Day, thinking about how to solve the problem (photo by kutoid)

            And not healthy.  Inadequate toilets and related sanitation facilities (like someplace to wash your hands after defecating) cause 432,000 deaths each year because of diarrhea and parasitic infections.  About 1000 children under 5 die from these causes every day.  These issues cause lots of related problems, especially for women and girls—absence from school, violence in unsafe locations, loss of productivity.  Turns out that investing $1 in better sanitation realizes more than $4 in increased productivity.

            Just before the turn of the last century, a successful businessman from Singapore gave up his career and took up the cause of improving sanitation.  Jack Sim is now known universally as Mr. Toilet.  Starting in his homeland and spreading globally, he and his organization, the WTO, have advocated for better sanitation to whomever would listen.  He started the idea of World Toilet Day in 2001, when he founded WTO, and the United Nations endorsed it as an official day in 2013. 

            It hasn’t been easy to get the world’s attention.  Sim says, “It’s called a brown issue because it’s brown in color. Funders [and] donors love “green” issues and “blue” issues — water, forest, animals, then children, women, climate change. These are beautiful pictures you can show, but toilets, sanitation, shit, sewage treatment is really uncomfortable.”  So, he uses humor to get the idea across, often dressing as the poop emoji or snapping toilet selfies in unlikely places and poses.  “We have to compete with Kim Kardashian and football.  When you’re at the bottom of the pile, humor helps a lot.”

Sustainable Development Goal 6 is about water and sanitation for all (image by United Nations)

            But progress is being made.  When the UN established its new Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, an entire goal (goal 6) was devoted to ensuring the “availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.”  Their most recent report states that from 28% of the world’s population having safely managed sanitation services in 2000, the percentage rose to 45% in 2017.  But the effort must be increased substantially to meet the 2030 goal of good sanitation for all.  Much of the problem is centered in India, where half the population still lacks sanitary facilities, and in Africa.

            When you see a toilet that is “out of order,” it irritates you, right?  Imagine if it were that way every day of your life.  So, appreciate what you have and join in this year’s theme for World Toilet Day—“Leave no one behind!”

References:

Global Citizen.  How ‘Mr. Toilet’ is Using Humor to Talk About Better Sanitation.  Available at:  https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/mr-toilet-jack-sim-interview/.  Accessed November 6, 2019.

United Nations.  Sustainable Development Goal 6.  Available at:  https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg6.  Accessed November 6, 2019.

United Nations.  World Toilet Day, November 19.  Available at:  https://www.un.org/en/events/toiletday/index.shtml.  Accessed November 6, 2019.

World Toilet Organization.  What’s UN World Toilet Day?  Available at:  http://worldtoilet.org/#.  Accessed November 6, 2019.

This Month in Conservation

January 1
NEPA Enacted (1970)
January 2
Bob Marshall Born (1901)
January 3
Canaveral National Seashore Created (1975)
January 4
The Real James Bond Born (1900)
January 5
National Bird Day
January 6
Wild Kingdom First Airs (1963)
January 7
Gerald Durrell Born (1925)
January 8
Alfred Russel Wallace Born (1823)
January 9
Muir Woods National Monument Created (1908)
January 10
National Houseplant Appreciation Day
January 11
Aldo Leopold Born (1887)
January 12
National Trust of England Established (1895)
January 13
MaVynee Betsch, the Beach Lady, Born (1935)
January 14
Martin Holdgate Born (1931)
January 15
British Museum Opened (1795)
January 16
Dian Fossey Born (1932)
January 17
Benjamin Franklin, America’s First Environmentalist, Born (1706)
January 18
White Sands National Monument Created (1933)
January 19
Yul Choi, Korean Environmentalist, Born (1949)
January 19
Acadia National Park Established (1929)
January 20
Penguin Appreciation Day
January 21
The Wilderness Society Founded (1935)
January 22
Iraq Sabotages Kuwaiti Oil Fields (1991)
January 23
Sweden Bans CFCs in Aerosols (1978)
January 24
Baden-Powell Publishes “Scouting for Boys” (1908)
January 25
Badlands National Park Established (1939)
January 26
Benjamin Franklin Disses the Bald Eagle (1784)
January 27
National Geographic Society Incorporated (1888)
January 28
Bermuda Petrel, Thought Extinct for 300 Years, Re-discovered (1951)
January 29
Edward Abbey, author of “Desert Solitaire,” Born (1927)
January 30
England Claims Antarctica (1820)
January 31
Stewart Udall, Secretary of Interior, Born (1920)
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