Thursday, November 12, 2009

World Toilet Day

19 Nov 2009 is World Toilet Day.

I know many people will go 'huh?' on hearing this. Why do we even need to mark any day as the 'World Toilet Day'? If you think this is a funny or embarrassing topic, read on.

'World Toilet Day' was established on November 19, 2001 by the World Toilet Organization (WTO) based in Singapore. It is celebrated annually to increase awareness of the importance of toilet sanitation and the toilet users' rights for a better toilet environment.

The WTO is a global non-profit organization committed to improving toilet and sanitation conditions worldwide. The WTO is founded in Singapore by Jack Sim who felt that the issue of basic sanitation has been much neglected. He founded WTO in 2001 and the World Toilet College (WTC) in 2005.

Every year, the WTO also organizes the World Toilet Summit to provide a common platform for stakeholders to connect, share, learn and collaborate to meet the global target for sanitation. The first summit was held in 2001 in Singapore. Subsequently, it was held in Korea, Taiwan, China, Northern Ireland, Russia, India and Macau. This year, the Summit will be held in Singapore again (2-4 Dec 09).

In Korea, the Chairman of the Korean WTO is certainly taking this awkward issue very seriously. See the shape of his house in South Korea and you would know what I mean.

We use toilets everyday and sometimes we get upset when these facilities are found to be less than desirable. We certainly have the right to have access to basic toilet sanitation and we have the right to complain when that right is not given. However, many are not aware that, out there, 2.5 billion people do not even have somewhere safe, private or hygienic to go to. That is almost half the world's population!

This is not just a matter of convenience. Rather, it is a matter of life and death. The lack of the most basic sanitation is giving a much bigger problem than many can imagine. Every year, 1.8 million children are killed because they do not have access to sanitation.

If we think that AIDS have killed many, diarrheal diseases kill five times more children in the developing world. That means, 5,000 children are dying everyday!

Lack of sanitation can cause fecal related illness. This is not surprising considering the fact that one gram of feces can contain 10 million viruses, one million bacteria, 1,000 parasite cysts and 100 parasite eggs.

The theme for this year's 'World Toilet Day' is "The health of your child begins in the toilet". Besides Singapore, countries such as Australia, Germany, India, Canada, United States, United Kingdom and Nepal will be hosting "The Big Squat" events to mark this day. To help raise awareness for the 2.5 billion people who do not have access to sanitation, thousands of people are going to squat for one minute on 19 Nov.

Check the list or map for an event near you.

Squatting is used to symbolize the problems in the developing world, where the lack of sanitation forces people to squat in fields, on train tracks, or in other open places. Open defecation is certainly one of the worst problems faced by the developing world.

In Singapore, the WTO will be celebrating the 'World Toilet Day' at *Scape Youth Centre. You can join the event which will feature a "Big Squat" and a photo exhibit on "Sanitation's Irony" by Heratnor Nuri. The exhibit will run through 20 Nov 09.

I know this is a crappy topic to most people. It is unfortunate that it is a 'taboo' topic to talk about openly and many people remain ignorant about the scale of the problem. I fail to understand how this can be an unimportant topic when, on an average, we visit the toilet 2500 times a year, or 6-8 times a day. In our life time, we would have spent 3 years in the toilet.

You can help to make a difference and improve sanitation in a few ways:

1. Spread the message to increase awareness by sharing this article

2. Participate in a 'World Toilet Day' event near you.

3. Give a donation to the WTO.

Surely we can always do something for somebody.

"One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody."
Mother Teresa~

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