November 23, 2021

Celebrating World Toilet Day

Every year on the 19 of November, Mercy International Association celebrates World Toilet Day. While it may seem odd to commemorate a piece of sanitary hardware, World Toilet Day acknowledges one of the largest inequalities in our world: access to clean and safe sanitation. 


As of today, 3.6 billion people are living without access to toilets, meaning that nearly half of the world’s population doesn’t have safe and sanitary ways to dispose of and treat human waste, either on or off-site. Without the necessary equipment, water is contaminated and that affects drinking water, food crops, rivers, and beaches, leading to widespread disease and threats to the overall health of a community. The issues surrounding proper sanitation have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, when it became clear that proper sanitation services can save lives. Furthermore, the lack of access to toilets contributes to climate change. According to Sanitation and Water for All (SWA),  untreated sewage and human waste produce methane and nitrous oxide, which can cause harmful climate effects. 


The health, social, economic, and climate repercussions of unhygienic toilets, or the lack of any sanitation facilities, are real. In order to combat this problem, there needs to be international intervention where world leaders and policymakers come together to find sustainable, ethical, and safe ways to ensure that every person has access to a toilet. Despite the urgency and relevance of this issue, there is still little push for change by world leaders. In fact, these issues were just discussed at COP26 where SWA called upon leaders to “ensure that marginalized groups, including women and children, gain access to running water, soap, and toilets for their health and dignity, which is a key part of building climate resilience.” As of yet, there have been no formal solutions agreed upon at COP that addresses this issue. 


Mercy International Association urges world leaders to listen to organizations like SWA. Not only is the topic of access to toilets and sanitation essential to human life but it also is key to accomplishing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). From SDG3 (ensuring health and well-being for all) to SDG6 (ensuring water and sanitation for all), the implementation of international policies that tackle the lack of access to toilets will only aid the UN in accomplishing its goals. 


There needs to be a push for proper sanitation, starting with toilets. Despite the United Nations’ commitments on paper to healthy and widely accessible hygiene, there have been no real, significant changes or policies enacted.  Mercy International Association urges governments and policymakers to increase funding, knowledge, and innovation towards sustainable and sanitary toilets. Through funding, knowledge, and innovation, more toilets can be made available, which not only leads to clean water but also positive changes in the environment and gender.

To read more about World Toilet Day and what you can do to help, click here.

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