As the mother of a toddler I sometimes find myself reminiscing about the days when I could go to the toilet without being accompanied by an over-excited little person, who points at me shouting “mummy wee wee, mummy wee wee!” before making a grab for the loo roll.
But toddler issues aside, here in the UK we enjoy constant easy access to toilets that are generally safe, hygienic and private. I was recently shocked to discover that 2.5 billion people across the world don’t have access to what should be a basic human right for all.
That’s 1 in 3 people across the world, 40% of the global population, who have to use fields, streams, rivers, railway lines, canal banks, roadsides, plastic bags, or squalid, disease breeding buckets.
Here, we take it for granted that we’re never too far away from a half-decent loo. In the first world, our biggest toilet concerns are likely to be whether or not there’s a queue, did the last user pee on the seat and will there be any paper left. While they might not always be pristine, even the grubbier public loos are unlikely to give you a serious illness or prove to be dangerous.
But in some places in the world the simple act of going to the loo can prove deadly – and it’s women and children who are at greatest risk.
Bad sanitation is one of the world’s biggest killers. Every minute, three children under the age of five die because of dirty water and poor sanitation. Right this minute, around half the people in the world have an illness caused by bad sanitation.
In Africa, half of young girls who drop out of school do so because they need to collect water – often from many miles away – or because the school hasn’t got a basic toilet. The lack of a loo can also make women and girls easy targets for sexual assault as they have to go in the open, late at night.
In 2000, 189 countries signed up to the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. The sanitation target for 2015 is currently way off-target and at this rate won’t be met in sub-Saharan African until the 23rd century!
It’s appalling when you think about it, almost unimaginable.
I found out about toilet twinning when a local teenager spoke (very impressively) about it at a recent church service we were at. It’s a
ridiculously simple idea but one that can have a huge impact. Basically, for every £60 raised you can twin a toilet at home, work, school or wherever with a purpose-built latrine in the developing world.
Toilet Twinning raises funds for founder charities Cord and Tearfund to help bring safe, clean and hygienic sanitation to families and communities by helping to pay for latrines, hygiene education and clean water projects.
And in return for twinning your toilet you get a certificate of your toilet’s twin, containing a photo, its location and its GPS coordinates so you can look it up on Google Maps.
So we’re planning to save our pennies – excuse the pun – and raise our £60 so we can twin our home toilet. Once we’ve done this I’ll hang our certificate in the bathroom as a reminder that even though life may be less than perfect at times, at least we have safe, hygienic access to one of life’s necessities. I hope you’ll consider doing the same.
You can find out more at www.toilettwinning.org
Facts and statistics from http://www.toilettwinning.org
Main image credit: nuttakit/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Second image: cbenjasuwan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Third image: www.toilettwinning.org