By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer
There are days, weeks and months for any cause you can think of, including some frivolous ones: Talk Like a Pirate Day or National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day, for instance. World Toilet Day may make you feel like giggling a little bit too, but poor sanitation is no laughing matter.
ChildFund marks World Toilet Day each year on Nov. 19 because many of the children in communities where we work have to walk a distance to use a toilet, or they may even have to find a bush nearby. Not only are these practices unsanitary but they also can be unsafe. Imagine having to venture outside in the dark every time nature calls. What if you were a 5-year-old having to do that?
According to the organizers of World Toilet Day, 2.5 billion people — one in three — do not have access to a clean, private and safe toilet. Aside from the obvious discomforts this situation causes, people in communities without proper sanitation suffer a broad set of other challenges. Girls are more likely to drop out of classes after puberty if they don’t have private facilities at school, and in communities where sanitation-related diseases like diarrhea are prevalent, health care costs rise, and so do death rates, especially for children under age 5.
In Sapahaqui, Bolivia, children have learned how to clean their hands well, and ChildFund has supplied them with sanitation kits and built or repaired school bathrooms. “Children are so happy about the new bathrooms that they just don’t want to come out from there,” says one teacher. “I can already notice that hand washing and new bathrooms are affecting children’s health because fewer and fewer of them catch cold and have fleas.”
Although the children of Sapahaqui are making strides toward healthier habits, many of the children we work with are still in need of clean sanitation facilities.
On World Toilet Day, please think about the one in three people who don’t have a clean, private bathroom — one of the things we take for granted in developed nations — and consider how you can help.
As we observe World Toilet Day Nov. 19, our hearts and minds are with the people of the Philippines, where, in the aftermath of the devastating Typhoon Haiyan, whatever sanitation infrastructure was in place is now in shambles.
A meaningful way to acknowledge World Toilet day is by donating to our Relief and Recovery Fund for the Philippines, which allows ChildFund to stand ready to respond after disasters. In the Philippines, we are on the ground, working to provide for immediate needs and assessing requirements for longer-term support. Rebuilding access to sanitation will certainly be a challenging — and lifesaving — part of our response. Please help.