November 19 is not just another day—it is also “World Toilet Day.” This Day is to raise awareness about all the people who do not have access to something we seem to take for granted on a daily basis, toilets. World Toilet Day was founded on November 19, 2001, by the World Toilet Organization (WTO). The WTO is a global non-profit organization founded by Jack Sim, and it is committed to improving worldwide toilet and sanitation conditions.
According to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, one out of every three women worldwide lack access to safe toilets. This means these women have to defecate in the open, which puts them at risk of assault and rape, simply because they lack the proper sanitation facilities. Furthermore, open defecation also puts people, especially children, in danger of deadly fecal-oral diseases such as diarrhea. According to the UN, more than 340,000 children under the age of five died from diarrhea diseases in 2013 due to a lack of safe water, sanitation and just basic hygiene.
While this issue affects people of all ages and genders, women and children in particular are especially at risk for the reasons listed above. Furthermore, although it is the poorer communities who suffer from a lack of sanitary toilet facilities, everyone still suffers from the contaminating effects of open defecation. Therefore, there is a heightened sense of urgency in addressing this global problem.
According to the UN, “[e]ight-two per cent of the 1 billion people practicing open defecation live in just 10 countries.” These countries include: India, Indonesia, Pakistan, and China—just to name a few. These countries also account for a large part of the world’s population, so without immediate proper action, a large portion of our world’s population could potentially be at risk of the dangers of these contaminating effects.
It is undisputed that we have a right to access clean water and sanitation. So does the fact that some countries lack proper toilet facilities rise to a level that constitute a human rights violation? Should these countries be penalized for their failure to provide these necessary facilities, which in essence, is the cause of the spread of deadly diseases such as diarrhea?