When some people in a community do not have safe toilets, everyone’s health is threatened. Poor sanitation contaminates drinking-water sources, rivers, beaches and food crops, spreading deadly diseases among the wider population.
Photo:UN Water

Valuing toilets

“Who cares about toilets? 3.6 billion people do. Because they don’t have one that works properly.“ That is the starting point of this 2021 Campaign for World Toilet Day. The Observance celebrates toilets and raises awareness of the 3.6 billion people living without access to safely managed sanitation. When some people in a community do not have safe toilets, everyone’s health is threatened. Poor sanitation contaminates drinking-water sources, rivers, beaches and food crops, spreading deadly diseases among the wider population.

This year’s theme is about valuing toilets. The campaign draws attention to the fact that toilets – and the sanitation systems that support them – are underfunded, poorly managed or neglected in many parts of the world, with devastating consequences for health, economics and the environment, particularly in the poorest and most marginalized communities.

On the other hand, the advantages of investing in an adequate sanitation system are immense. For instance, every $1 invested in basic sanitation returns up to $5 in saved medical costs and increased productivity, and jobs are created along the entire service chain. For women and girls, toilets at home, school and at work help them fulfil their potential and play their full role in society, especially during menstruation and pregnancy.

On 9 October 2012, Vaishnavi Navalji Dadmal, 9, poses for a photograph at her residential toilet in India. Credit: @Dhiraj Singh

Spread the message!

Your participation in the campaign is crucial to our success. Visit the official UN Water website, leading agency of the Observance, where you can learn more about this problem and help us to spread the message of people who have neither a voice nor a toilet. Check their cool Communication Tool Kit in languages and spread the world.

The solution is about taking action to tackle the global sanitation crisis and achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030.

Even though sanitation is a human right recognized by the United Nations, we urgently need massive investment and innovation to quadruple progress all along the ‘sanitation chain’, from toilets to the transport, collection and treatment of human waste.

As part of a human rights-based approach, governments must listen to the people who are being left behind without access to toilets and allocate specific funding to include them in planning and decision-making processes.

 

Did you know?

  • Globally, at least 2 billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with faeces. 
  • Every day, over 700 children under five years old die from diarrhoea linked to unsafe water, sanitation and poor hygiene. 
  • For every $1 invested in basic sanitation up to $5 is returned in saved medical costs and increased productivity, and jobs are created along the entire service chain. 

Who cares about toilets?

A young boy about to use a sanitary latrine

There is no single UN entity dedicated exclusively to water issues. Over 30 UN organizations carry out water and sanitation programs, reflecting the fact that water issues run through all of the UN’s main focus areas. UN-Water’s role is to coordinate them all so that the UN family ‘delivers as one’ in response to water-related challenges. 

A child in Indonesia cleans his face with a women looking at him.

An estimated 673 million people have no toilets at all and practice open defecation (2017), while nearly 698 million school-age children lacked basic sanitation services at their school. At the current rate of progress, it will be the twenty-second century before sanitation for all is a reality. While the challenge is significant, history shows that rapid progress is possible. Get more information about this topic with the State of World’s Sanitation from WHO and UNICEF.

 

illustration of people with clock, calendar, to-do list and decorations

International days and weeks are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.