Toilets Save Lives

Toilets save lives because human waste spreads killer diseases. However, 4.5 billion people live without a household toilet that safely disposes of their waste. World Toilet Day is about inspiring action to tackle the global sanitation crisis.

By 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals, specifically SDG #6, aim to reach everyone with sanitation, and halve the proportion of untreated wastewater and increase recycling and safe reuse.

For that to be achieved, we need everyone’s poo to be contained, transported, treated and disposed of in a safe and sustainable way. Today, for billions of people around the world, sanitation systems are either non-existent or ineffective and, consequently, progress in health and child survival is seriously undermined.

Also, poor water and sanitation cost developing countries around $260 billion a year, 1.5 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP), while every dollar invested could bring a five-fold return by keeping people healthy and productive.

2017 theme: Wastewater

World Toilet Day 2017 continues the theme from World Water Day earlier this year, with the focus on wastewater. As part of this topic, we are asking the question, ‘Where does our poo go?’ For billions of people around the world, sanitation systems are either non-existent or ineffective. Poo gets out into the environment and spreads killer diseases, seriously undermining progress in health and child survival. Even in wealthy countries, treatment of wastewater can be far from perfect, leading to rivers and coastlines that cannot be safely fished in or enjoyed.

In addition to the profound impact that improved sanitation has on health and living conditions, safely-managed wastewater has massive potential as an affordable and sustainable source of energy, nutrients and water.

The poo journey

If there’s one thing that unites humanity, it’s the call of nature. But depending on where we live, it’s not always possible to dispose of our bodily waste safely and responsibly.

To achieve SDG 6, we need everyone’s poo to take a 4-step journey:

  • Containment. Poo must be deposited into a hygienic toilet and stored in a sealed pit or tank, separated from human contact.
  • Transport. Pipes or latrine emptying services must move the poo to the treatment stage.
  • Treatment. Poo must be processed into treated wastewater and waste products that can be safely returned to the environment.
  • Disposal or reuse. Safely treated poo can be used for energy generation or as fertilizer in food production.

Where does the poo go?

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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.
  • 1.8 billion people use an unimproved source of drinking water with no protection against contamination from faeces.
  • Globally, 80% of the wastewater generated by society flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused.
  • Only 39% of the global population (2.9 billion people) use a safely-managed sanitation service, that is, excreta safely disposed of in situ or treated off-site.
  • Combined with safe water and good hygiene, improved sanitation could prevent around 842,000 deaths each year.