In 2001, Singaporean
businessman Jack Sim founded the World Toilet Organization to bring attention to the lack of
sanitation in developing countries. Travellers are still taking part in the organization’s
annual World Toilet Day (19 November), which seeks to break toilet taboos with humorous public education campaigns and events
around the globe.
staggering 2.5 billion people – that’s one in every three people
worldwide – do not have access to a clean toilet. Around 1.1 billion people are
forced to defecate and urinate in the open. The resulting contaminated water
leads to diarrheal diseases, which kill more young children in
the developing world than HIV/AIDS, malaria and measles combined.
also massive economic costs associated with poor sanitation.
The World Bank’s Water and Sanitation
that per year, poor sanitation costs India nearly three trillion rupees ($53.8 billion), East Asia around 88.5
trillion Indonesian rupiah ($9.2 billion) and Kenya around 27.7 billion
shillings ($324 million). These astounding price tags reflect the increased costs
for providing health care and accessing potable water (both for
households and agricultural purposes) and the related decrease in tourism
dollars, since places with poor sanitation are less attractive to travellers.
The World Health Organization finds that investing just $1 in improved
sanitation yields an economic return of between $3 and $34 depending on which
part of the world you are in. As part of World Toilet Day, the World Toilet Organization
is circulating a petition for the United Nations to “keep its promises” on improving sanitation and clean water – part
of the UN’s eight Millennium Development Goals, which also include halving extreme
poverty by 2015. The petition will be given to the UN during the 2013
Millennium Development Goals Summit in September 2013.
around this time, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation launched the Reinvent the Toilet challenge,
motivating engineers to build
a better toilet. The $100,000 first prize went to a solar-powered toilet that turns human waste into energy while
filtering the used water to make it suitable for irrigation.
to Sim, one of the most important ways to solve the worldwide sanitation
problem is to talk about it. “What we don’t discuss, we can’t improve”, he said
during a TED talk in Taipei. (TED is a non-profit dedicated to
spreading ideas in technology, entertainment and design.) So, around the world on
Monday, events will be taking place to break down that barrier. Here are a few
highlights from this year’s World Toilet Day celebrations:
School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine launched an exhibition featuring toilet designs and scientific tools for the study
of human waste. It also showcases a golden sculpture of the very stuff World Toilet Day
is all about containing.
Durban, South Africa
World Toilet Day, Durban, South Africa is hosting the 2012 World Toilet Summit from 4 to 6 December. The South African Toilet Organisation is also currently holding an African
Toilet Design Competition, similar to the Gates effort last year.
The Nirmal Bharat Yatra organization, focused on sanitation and
hygiene, is presenting a participatory art exhibition that encourages visitors
to decorate their toilets with illustrations and messages on why sanitation
matters. Other activities include a competition to see who can squat the
longest, a game of “Musical Toilets”, and a photo booth where visitors can pose
on a fake toilet seat.
Portland, United States
the organization PHLUSH (Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human) is
promoting the use of an emergency toilet in the Pacific Northwest. It separates
urine from faeces and allows for ecologically sound composting.