Photo credit: UN Department of Global Communications

If you’re reading this and you have access to a hygienic toilet and proper sanitation, you are luckier than 4.2 billion people who don’t. For them, proper toilets can be the difference between life and death, poverty and prosperity.

You may not give much thought to what happens once you flush your toilet. However, a toilet is more than just a toilet. It’s a life-saver, dignity-protector and opportunity-maker.

Today, 673 million still practice open defecation while three billion lack basic handwashing facilities, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). This means untreated human waste is spreading diseases into water supplies and the food chain for billions of people. Further, WHO says inadequate sanitation is estimated to cause 432,000 diarrhoeal deaths every year.

As part of the universally agreed upon Sustainable Development Goals, SDG 6 has a target to eliminate open defecation and ensure everyone has access to sustainable sanitation services by 2030, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations.

In line with the promise of achieving SDG 6, World Toilet Day — celebrated on 19th November every year — is about raising awareness about the global sanitation crisis and inspiring action to ensure that all people have access to proper sanitation. It is also about helping break taboos around toilets and making sanitation for all a global development priority.

The world is currently off track to meet SDG 6, with only 40 out of 152 countries are on track to achieve nearly universal basic sanitation by 2030.

The theme of this year’s World Toilet Day is ‘Leaving no one behind’, the central promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The aim is simple: to show that poor and marginalized people are much more likely to lack safely managed sanitation services and often face discrimination based on their gender, race, religion, disability and more, and they should not be left behind as they try to access and manage sanitation services.

World Toilet Day builds on the notion that “whoever you are, wherever you are, sanitation is your human right”. Protecting this right and to building a better future for all requires removing the stigma and taboos around sanitation and including the marginalized groups in decision making processes.

World Toilet Day encourages all people to get involved in the global movement for toilets and sanitation for all and to join the global effort to end the sanitation crisis.