Short­age in spot­light on World Toi­let Day

The Myanmar Times - - News - NICK BAKER n.baker@mm­times.com

POTTY talk got se­ri­ous this week­end as de­vel­op­ment or­gan­i­sa­tions marked World Toi­let Day on Novem­ber 19.

“[This is] a day to raise aware­ness and in­spire ac­tion to tackle the global san­i­ta­tion cri­sis – a topic of­ten ne­glected and shrouded in taboos,” the UN-Wa­ter-run World Toi­let Day web­site says.

The 2014 Myan­mar cen­sus found that 18 per­cent of house­holds do not have a proper toi­let. This rises to 23pc in ru­ral parts of the coun­try.

Ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO), house­holds with­out a proper toi­let are at greater risk for many deadly dis­eases such as di­ar­rhoea, cholera, dysen­tery, hep­ati­tis A and ty­phoid.

“Di­ar­rhoea re­mains a ma­jor killer [that] is largely pre­ventable,” said a Novem­ber 2016 WHO fact sheet on san­i­ta­tion.

UNICEF coun­try rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ber­trand Bain­vel told The Myan­mar Times that al­most 17pc, or some 2.8 mil­lion chil­dren in Myan­mar, are forced to prac­tice “open defe­ca­tion”.

“This means they go in the open – on the side of the road, in fields and in bushes,” he said.

But Mr Bain­vel said that see­ing the sub­ject as “triv­ial, vul­gar [or] in­ap­pro­pri­ate” pre­vents mean­ing­ful dis­cus­sion, both here and around the world, about how to ad­dress san­i­ta­tion chal­lenges.

“Clean, af­ford­able toi­lets is a topic rarely brought to the ta­ble of high­level cir­cles de­bat­ing a coun­try’s best strate­gies for de­vel­op­ment,” he said.

“Hav­ing ac­cess to clean toi­lets gives ev­ery hu­man be­ing, start­ing with ev­ery child, the op­por­tu­nity to grow up in a healthy en­vi­ron­ment.”

The theme of this year’s World Toi­let Day was “Toi­lets and Jobs”, fo­cus­ing on how poor san­i­ta­tion can have a ma­jor im­pact on peo­ple’s liveli­hoods.

“Toi­lets play a cru­cial role in creat­ing a strong econ­omy,” United Na­tions Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon said in a me­dia state­ment for World Toi­let Day.

“A lack of toi­lets at work and at home has se­vere con­se­quences, in­clud­ing poor health lead­ing to ab­sen­teeism, re­duced con­cen­tra­tion, ex­haus­tion and de­creased pro­duc­tiv­ity,” the state­ment added.

UN-Wa­ter fig­ures showed that a loss of pro­duc­tiv­ity due to ill­nesses caused by sub­stan­dard san­i­ta­tion is es­ti­mated to cost coun­tries up to 5pc of their GDP.

“Ev­ery dol­lar in­vested in wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion leads to US$4 in eco­nomic re­turns,” Mr Ban said.

Mr Ban also said in­vest­ing in ap­pro­pri­ate toi­lets “was es­pe­cially im­por­tant for women and girls so that they have pri­vate, clean and safe fa­cil­i­ties, and are able to man­age men­stru­a­tion or preg­nancy safely”.

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