Shortage in spotlight on World Toilet Day
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”.