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Could you live without a decent dunny?

Worldwide there are 1 billion people daily defecating in the open. Image: Sergei A - pexels

WORLD Toilet Organization (WTO), established in 2001, aims to break the taboo around toilets and the sanitation crisis.

World Toilet Day on Friday 19, November is one of its initiatives, focussing on the 3.6 billion people on the planet who live without one.

The Day aims to raise awareness of this global health emergency and accomplish a water and sanitation supply for all by 2030.

This year’s theme of ‘valuing toilets’ highlights toilets and the sanitation systems that support them are underfunded, poorly managed and neglected in many parts of the world.

This lack of upkeep has devastating consequences for health, economics and the environment, particularly in third world countries and marginalised communities.

The Australian Institute of International Affairs (AIIA) in 2020 reported 24 per cent of Australia’s population doesn’t have access to safely managed sanitation.

This is likely a reflection of imbalance, particularly for remote Indigenous communities.

While most dwellings, domestic and corporate, in this country have toilets, access to public toilets is another consideration.

AIIA’s report World Toilet Day: Sanitation is a 4-Ply Issue, states “a lack of access to clean, private, and safe toilet facilities contributes to poorer mental and social wellbeing, [and] increases the threat of gender-based violence.”

Members of the public, women, parents and trans or gender nonbinary persons often need to plan their outings based on the availability of suitable toilets.

This group sometimes find themselves unable to use a public toilet due to doors that don’t lock, have bad or no lighting, are gender exclusionary and have nowhere to dispose of personal sanitary items,

This last example supports emerging evidence that poor sanitation is one reason why girls in lower- and middle-income countries drop out of school when they reach adolescence. 

Source: Australian Institute of International Affairs

Here in Australia, once the ‘job’ is done, the human waste is typically contained, emptied and disposed of via a sewer network or septic tanks with regular emptying and trucking.

In Melbourne, places like the Melbourne Water’s Western Treatment Plant in Werribee clean the incoming liquids and solids, dispose of treated water to the environment, treat solids to landfill, reuse treated water for irrigation, and treat solids as soil amendments.

Overseas this is not always the case as it is commonly too expensive or not technically feasible to construct sanitation systems or septic tanks.

Many communities and countries are left susceptible to poor sanitation effects such as diarrhoea, respiratory infections, malnutrition and malaria, leading to increased mortality rates.

Worldwide there are 1 billion people daily defecating in the open.

WTO advocates for effective sanitation policies to ensure health, dignity and wellbeing for everyone, everywhere.

It also lobbies governments, public and private sector stakeholders and the international community to prioritise sanitation in the development plan.

“What would it be like to live without a decent dunny?” asks the Australian chapter of the global charity WaterAid.  

They have come up with fun activities and fundraising ideas for school kids on World Toilet Day to demonstrate the importance of a toilet and learn about sanitation issues in other parts of the world.

Pay to Pee which suggests all pupils donate a coin every time they use the toilet is one proposal.

Another idea is asking the children to come to school dressed in blue, signifying water, and donate a gold coin to the cause.

Local toilet paper manufacturer Who Gives A Crap donates 50 per cent of its profits to help build toilets and improve sanitation in the developing world.

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Carol Saffer

Carol Saffer is an award-winning journalist enthusiastic about creating copy that engages audiences. She is curious by nature, possesses a growth mindset and thrives on new and unusual challenges. Carol has experience as a reporter for various regional Victorian newspapers and writing for Business Day in The Age. Her previous career was in the fashion industry, and she holds post-graduate degrees in business and journalism.

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