Thursday, November 19th is the 15th annual World Toilet Day. Founded in 2001 to call attention to the widespread lack of access to clean water, sanitation, and proper toilets or latrines, World Toilet Day has grown every year through partnerships with more and more governments & NGOS; in 2013 it became an official UN-sanctioned day. In 2015, this day has taken on new meaning as a way to raise awareness of the new UN Sustainable Development Goals, which includes increasing access to Clean Water and Sanitation (Goal 6).
We here at FXB know that increasing access WaSH (Water, Sanitation, & Health) programs is one of the first steps on the road to ending extreme poverty. We often find that families who join the FXBVillage program have been relying unsafe facilities or, like nearly 1 billion other people in the world, practicing open defecation. Thus, latrine building and sanitation trainings are an essential element of Year One of the three-year FXB methodology.
As FXBVillage participants come to learn, open defecation or even poorly built latrines greatly increase the risk of contracting diseases such as cholera, diarrhea, worms, and typhoid. Diarrhea alone kills 2.2 million people per year, and almost half of the victims are under the age of five; furthermore, 50% of all cases of undernutrition and 25% of all cases of stunting are related to repeated diarrhea in early life. And while treatment for diarrhea has improved since the introduction of oral-rehydration therapy or ORT, preventing diarrhea in the first place is the only way to prevent these negative health outcomes.
As noted by FXB founder Albina du Boisrouvray in a recent interview with HuffPost Live: “Hygiene is crucial, hygiene lessons are the first step to healthcare. That’s why it’s mandatory that you build latrines as well, often with help of your neighbors.”
Both latrine building and education are needed to end open defecation because the problem is not just a lack of infrastructure but also cultural norms. It’s been said, “toilets alone can’t stop open defecation.” We’ve seen cases where toilets are built, but never used! Once families are on board about the importance of hygiene and the use of a safely-built and well-maintained latrine, then we take the next step and provide them with the basics to ensure continued health: soap, buckets, jerry cans for water, etc.
Education and some basic supplies still aren’t quite enough to bring sanitation up to a safe and reasonable standard. Thankfully, FXB can connect participants with resources to make their own sanitary facilities a reality. We have found that by partnering participants with community leaders and other organizations they can build latrines of their own. Once one family sees the health benefits, they can help others buy-in to the importance of good hygiene, and may help even more people build latrines.
In one of our previous blog posts, we told the story of Bi Ji Me, was able to invest some of the savings from her business in to building a sanitary toilet before she was even halfway through the FXBVillage program. This greatly increased the hygiene and health of her whole family.
Today, one-third of the world’s population still lacks access to improved and safe sanitation facilities. On World Toilet Day, we hope you will help spread the word about the importance of WaSH, latrines, and meeting this particular global development goal by reblogging this post, sharing it to Facebook, or tweeting this link @FXBusa..