The Sanitation Crisis

Toilets save lives, because human waste spreads killer diseases. World Toilet Day is about inspiring action to tackle the global sanitation crisis.

The world is not on track to reach Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6): to ensure availability and sustainable management of sanitation and water for all by 2030. Today, 4.5 billion live without a safe toilet and 892 million people still practise open defecation.

The impact of exposure to human faeces on this scale has a devastating impact upon public health, living and working conditions, nutrition, education and economic productivity across the world.

SDG 6 aims to ensure that everyone has a safe toilet and that no-one practises open defecation by 2030. Failure to achieve this goal risks the entire 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

2018 Theme: When Nature Calls

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This year’s campaign is based on the following narrative: “When nature calls, we need a toilet. But, billions of people don’t have one. This means human faeces, on a massive scale, are not being captured or treated – contaminating the water and soil that sustain human life. We are turning our environment into an open sewer. We must build toilets and sanitation systems that work in harmony with ecosystems.”

Nature-based Sanitation Solutions

Nature-based sanitation solutions (NBS) harness the power of ecosystems to help treat human waste before it returns to the environment. Most NBS essentially involve the protection and management of vegetation, soils and/or wetlands, including rivers and lakes.

For instance:

  • Composting latrines that capture and treat human waste on site, producing a free supply of fertiliser to help grow crops.
  • Human-made wetlands and reed-beds filter wastewater before it is released back into water courses.
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Top facts

The global sanitation crisis is reflected in the following facts, according to reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF):

  • Around 60% of the global population – 4.5 billion people – either have no toilet at home or one that doesn't safely manage excreta.
  • 862 million people worldwide still practise open defecation – this means human faeces, on a massive scale, is not being captured or treated.
  • 1.8 billion people use an unimproved source of drinking water with no protection against contamination from faeces.
  • One third of schools worldwide do not provide any toilet facilities – a particular problem for girls during menstruation.
  • 900 million schoolchildren across the world have no handwashing facilities – a critical barrier in the spread of deadly diseases.
  • Globally, 80% of the wastewater generated by society flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused.