World Toilet Day: Searching for Improved Sanitation


In 2013, the United Nations General Assembly officially designated November 19 annually as the World Toilet Day, which is coordinated by UN-Water in collaboration with governments and partners. Abimbola Akosile looks at a report launched recently by WaterAid on the state of the world’s toilets, and also efforts by the Sahara Group to make Nigeria and the rest of Africa a cleaner and better place

The World Toilet Day, which is marked annually on November 19, is about inspiring action to tackle the global sanitation crisis. Today, 4.5 billion people live without a household toilet that safely disposes of their waste, according to reports.

The theme for 2017 World Toilet Day is ‘Wastewater’ in line with the Sustainable Development Goal’s aim to reach everyone, everywhere with sanitation, and halve the proportion of untreated wastewater and increase recycling and safe reuse.

The 17 global Sustainable Development Goals, launched in 2015, include a target to ensure everyone has access to a safely-managed household toilet by 2030. This makes sanitation central to eradicating extreme poverty.

Revealing Report
WaterAid’s State of the World’s Toilets 2017 report, which was launched just days before the World Toilet Day, has revealed that Nigeria is in the top 3 worst countries in the world for the number of people without toilets.
‘Out of Order,’ WaterAid’s third-annual analysis of the world’s toilets released ahead of World Toilet Day, noted that as a result, nearly 123 million people still suffer the fear and indignity of relieving themselves in the open or in unsafe or unhygienic toilets – a situation that is most dangerous for girls and women.

It also reveals that globally, one in three people still have nowhere decent to go to the toilet, and demonstrates how women and girls bear the brunt of this global crisis. For more than 1.1 billion women and girls, this injustice results in an increased risk of poor health, limited education, harassment and even attack.

Notable Findings
Among other findings in the report released by WaterAid are that: All 10 of the world’s worst countries for access to basic sanitation by percentage are in sub-Saharan Africa, where only 28 per cent of people have a decent toilet, and children are 14 times more likely to die before the age of five than in developed regions.
Ethiopia is top of the list of countries with the greatest percentage of people living without decent toilets. Conversely, Ethiopia has also made the most progress in reducing open defecation, largely by investing in rudimentary community latrines.

With more than 355 million women and girls still waiting for access to basic sanitation, India tops the list for the longest queue for the toilet. However, there has been immense progress through the Swachh Bharat Mission, helping put India in the top 10 for reducing open defecation and improving access to basic sanitation.
Djibouti, a major route for refugees from the Yemen war, has the worst figures for open defecation, with a 7.2 per cent increase since 2000.

Between 2000 and 2015, the number of people in the world defecating in the open dropped from 1.2 billion (20 per cent of the global population) to 892 million (12 per cent). Despite this progress, it is still a huge problem, resulting in enough faeces to fill seven bathtubs every second going into the environment untreated.
The world has promised that by 2030 everyone will have a safe toilet but, whilst there has been considerable progress made over the last couple of decades, this target will not be met unless there is a step change in ambition and action.

Local Scenario
According to the WaterAid report, Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, comes in at third place for the worst countries for the numbers of people with access to basic sanitation. Despite being sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest economy, it is also sixth worst for addressing open defecation, with the percentage of people defecating in the open increasing from 22.6 per cent in 2000 to 25.5 per cent in 2015.

The proportion of people without basic sanitation has also gone up, and two thirds of schools have no decent toilets. This sanitation crisis contributed to the deaths of nearly 60,000 children each year from related diarrhoeal diseases, the report noted.

WaterAid Nigeria’s Communications and Media Manager, Oluseyi Abdulmalik, said: “Seven in ten people in Nigeria have nowhere safe to go to the toilets, equating to an overwhelming 123 million people. This denial of human rights contributes to the deaths of around 165 children under five every single day, and holds women and girls back from fulfilling their potential.

“We need urgent action to turn this situation around. Addressing the sanitation crisis with particular focus on the needs of women and girls will help lift entire communities out of poverty.

“We often call on Government to prioritise sanitation and investment in the sector and while this is as it should be, sanitation is really everyone’s responsibility. We all have a part to play – as individuals, property/home owners, families, work groups, unions and associations, civil society organisations, the media, the private sector, and yes, Government at all levels.”

Sahara Group Intervention

Sahara Group, working through its corporate sustainability vehicle known as Sahara Foundation, has continued to explore ways of promoting “good health and well-being” as well as “clean water and sanitation” to drive the achievement of goals 3 and 6 of the SDGs.

Over the years, Sahara Foundation has provided Water Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) facilities in high need communities and schools. From schools to communities where the needs are identified, Sahara Foundation implements According to Bethel Obioma, Head, Corporate Communications, Sahara Group, the Sahara Foundation recently concluded the construction of an ‘8-cubicle’ self-sufficient toilets in Akodo Primary School, Lagos in keeping with the organisation’s commitment to sustainable development.

“The design of the toilet allows communities to save energy by utilising natural light. The toilets are built strategically to collect rainwater as the major source of water supply. However, each toilet also comes with a hand pump borehole to serve as an alternative during the dry season,” he explained.

Sahara Foundation has also provided environmentally friendly and health improving toilets in a number of locations across Africa to curb the spread of killer diseases that result from open defecation.

Some of them are in Government Secondary School, Onne, Rivers State, and Akodo Primary School, Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos State, both in Nigeria; Salma Kikwete Secondary School, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Manbean Senior High Technical School, Tema, Ghana.

Sahara Foundation Manager, Oluseyi Ojurongbe said the Foundation’s WASH interventions have recorded over 15,000 direct beneficiaries across Africa.

“Our focus in the pursuit of goals 3 and 6 as well as other SDGs remain unwavering. We are confident that our extrapreneurship model which supports much wider impact through shared resources, expertise and networks will enhance the provision of modern sanitation facilities especially for the use of women and children who are the most vulnerable across Africa,” he added.

Clarion Calls
As part of activities to mark the World Toilet Day 2017, WaterAid is calling for governments to invest more money and spend it transparently and efficiently, paying particular attention to the needs of women and girls; and to promote the value of sanitation for gender equality and female empowerment, and involve women as leaders to ensure solutions address the challenges women and girls face.

Governments have also been enjoined to improve coordination to create gender-friendly toilets in all schools, healthcare facilities, work environments and public spaces; and to combine plans to improve access to sanitation with efforts to redistribute water and hygiene work, which is predominantly the responsibility of women and girls.
According to WaterAid Nigeria: “The theme for 2017 World Toilet Day is ‘Wastewater’ in line with the Sustainable Development Goal’s aim to reach everyone, everywhere with sanitation, and halve the proportion of untreated wastewater and increase recycling and safe reuse. For that to be achieved, we need everyone’s waste to be contained, transported, treated and disposed of in a safe and sustainable way.

“This World Toilet Day is an opportunity for us to strengthen and sustain partnerships among stakeholders, especially aimed at raising awareness, mobilising and inspiring community actions to tackle the global sanitation crisis”, the organisation added.

WaterAid also joined the Youth WASH Network, UNICEF, Action Against Hunger, the Federal Ministry of Water Resources and other partners under the auspices of the National Task Group on Sanitation to commemorate the Day with a Toilet4All campaign.

The campaign is an open defecation free crusade aimed at using public lectures, edutainment and media communication as a strategy for mobilising everyone, everywhere to construct, use and maintain toilets, as well as promoting wastewater management and recycling in schools, healthcare facilities, communities and public places across the country.

The Toilet4All campaign also supports Nigeria’s 2025 Open Defecation Roadmap spearheaded by the NTGS and supported by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources.

The vision is to engage and empower citizens towards construction, use and maintenance of toilets as well as promote knowledge about wastewater management and recycling in schools, healthcare facilities, communities and public places across the country as an effective strategy for diseases prevention.

The campaign also seeks to promote, inspire and empower young people and women in communities to serve as advocate for wastewater management, recycling and reuse of solid and liquid waste; increase awareness on the effects of indiscriminate disposal of wastewater on shallow ground /surface water system on human health which is the major cause of typhoid, diarrhoea etc.