There are some statistics we read that raise eyebrows, some that cause us to look twice, and then there are the ones that shock us into action – or they ought to! At Parenta, we think that the following fact is one of those statistics that we should all sit up and take notice of, and it’s this:

3.6 billion people living on planet earth in 2021, do not have access to a safely managed sanitation service – i.e. a clean and hygienic toilet!

(WHO/UNICEF, 2021)

If you really look and understand, it says just under half of the world’s population cannot do what comes naturally, in a secure, private and sanitary place. That may be all very well if you are living in a wilderness and need to answer nature’s call occasionally in the bush, but we are talking about half the people on the earth, on a daily basis. Instead of having what we all take for granted, they are living with open sewers in the streets, fatal diseases which should be and could be preventable, and contaminated drinking water systems. As the organisers of World Toilet Day say, “Life without a toilet is dirty, dangerous and undignified.” Somewhere, something has gone very wrong.

World Toilet Day is a United Nation’s awareness day which seeks to raise awareness across the globe of this issue and to find some strategies, funds and a groundswell of support from everyone from ordinary people to international consortiums, to change things. The day is celebrated on 19th November each year and we all need to sit up and take notice of it if we are to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goal number 6 of clean water and sanitation for all by 2030.

Why are toilets important?

The health of the general public depends on having toilets and safe sanitation. We know this from history. When communities gain access to clean water, proper sanitation via private and public toilets and a sustainable waste management infrastructure, it improves their health, environment, education, gender equality and economics. Clean water and hand washing facilities have been vital during the pandemic to maintain our health security and to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But there are also other deadly diseases such as cholera and typhoid which are still affecting millions of people each year due to lack of proper sanitation. And children are often the most at risk. According to the World Toilet Day website, at least 2 billion people worldwide use a drinking water source that is contaminated with faeces, and over 700 children under 5 die every day from diarrhoea linked to unsafe water, sanitation and poor hygiene. In places where there are no toilets, many girls often do not attend schools whilst menstruating, meaning that each month, they miss out on their education, seriously affecting their future life chances.

What is a sustainable sanitation system?

Sustainable sanitation starts with having a toilet in a private, accessible and dignified setting which effectively captures human waste. This is usually stored in a tank which can later be emptied by a collection service or transported away by pipes, such as the sewer system. Then comes the treatment, reuse and safe disposal of the waste. By doing this, we can not only save water, but we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions needed for energy production, and provide a reliable source of water and nutrients to agriculture as well. And if you factor in the jobs within the water treatment industry too, you get all the economic and employment benefits that those bring. It all starts with a toilet!

How to celebrate World Toilet Day in your setting

Here are some ideas to help you get involved.

1. Give your own toilets some appreciation – decorate them with ‘thank you’ cards or little hearts to show you love and appreciate them.

2. Teach the children about the water cycle and how human waste is managed in the UK, and the differences that exist around the world.

3. Raise awareness and show your support on your social media sites by using the hashtag #WorldToiletDay and by using some of the downloadable pictures, fact swheets and posters from the official website (available at https://www.worldtoiletday.info/.) You can download a fact sheet in several different languages including Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, French, Portuguese, Russian, Swahili and Spanish.

4. Raise some money for a charity related to water and sanitation such as Toilet Twinning, Water Aid or The Water Project – think about having sponsored events or community sales.

5. Teach the children about the importance of hand washing and run a training session on how to wash hands effectively – you could use music to help the children remember the message and a quick YouTube search reveals a lot of catchy rhymes that will have you happily singing along all day.

6. Revisit your toilet-training procedures or train new staff on your nappy changing practices and protocols.

7. Clean up your own act! Promote a better understanding in your setting of what can safely be put down toilets, and what can’t. Many sewers become unhygienic and blocked because of the myriad of items that people try to flush down the toilet every day. This includes things like sanitary pads and tampons, face or cleaning wipes, and disposable nappies! Our sewage system is not built to deal with these items, let alone the U-bend(!) and they cause damage by clogging the systems. The only things that should be put down toilets apart from our wee and poo, is toilet paper. Even kitchen towel and tissues can clog systems because they are designed not to disintegrate on contact with water, and so can cause havoc.

8. Look at your use of disposable nappies. Whilst they may appear to be a time-saving resource, think about the impact that these nappies are having on the planet. A disposable nappy can take hundreds of years to compost completely and dealing with these items is problematic. An average child will use 5,000 nappies before being toilet trained, which is a lot of non-biodegradable material. Why not investigate or trial the use of reusable nappies in your setting during World Toilet Day?

Whatever you do on World Toilet Day, remember to send us your stories and pictures to hello@parenta.com.

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