Today is World Toilet Day

Post date: Nov 19, 2009 12:47:41 AM

World Toilet Day (November 19): Everybody’s Business 

We all do it. Where we do it depends on our available resources. Some do it inside and others out in the open. A number do not have a choice and do it wherever they can. Some wash their hands, many don’t. Some squat and others hunker down near a stream.  

What is everyone doing exactly? They are doing their business; behind bushes, into sewer drains, on the side of roads, out in fields, in clean or filthy public toilets, or in the privacy of their own homes. The type of business most people would prefer to flush down the drain never to be thought of again but urgently needs to. Today is that day, it’s World Toilet Day.  

Founded in 2001, the World Toilet Organization, an international non-profit, affiliated with VPWA and committed to bringing awareness and improving sanitation conditions worldwide, started World Toilet Day. Events around the globe are being held to raise consciousness about the 2.5 billion people who do not have access to toilets and adequate sanitation. People gathering to perform public squats may be seen across the world to raise awareness about the millions of people living without or with inadequate sanitation.  

Nearly half of the world’s population regularly faces preventable risks to their health, dignity, and environment due to inadequate access to sanitary facilities. This leads to contamination of drinking water and food sources by the millions of dangerous germs and parasites found in fecal matter. Lack of sanitation is the world’s largest cause of infection states the NRDC website; which contributes to approximately 4 billion cases of diarrheal diseases per year (e.g., cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, dysentery) and roughly 600 million cases of intestinal worms which can lead to malnutrition, anemia, and retarded growth according to the World Bank. These sanitation-related diseases are responsible for 2.2 million deaths per year, mostly in children under the age of 5. To put it in perspective, UNICEF/WHO reports that over 5,000 children die every day as a result of diarrheal diseases in the developing world.  

In Ghana, sanitation concerns are present every day, and go beyond just an unpleasant aroma. Throughout the capital city, Accra, “do not urinate” signs dot walls and many individuals can be seen openly using sewer trenches as toilets because they simply do not have access to proper facilities. Public facilities are usually few and far between, especially beyond urban areas, and one can quite often find a motorist using the side of the road as a public restroom. Even where public facilities are available they still do not stack up. One in particular stands within the STC bus station near Makola Market, where travelers relieve themselves in an open trench, with little separating men and women. 

According to a report by the Joint Monitoring Program (JMP) formed between the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, fewer than 2.2 million people in Ghana (of a total population of approximately 23.8 million) have access to basic household toilets. Just to be clear, that implies that less than 8 per cent of us have proper sanitation access at home based on the WHO definition. An additional 12 million people use shared or public facilities, many of which would not be given high marks by health organizations. Where are the rest of us going…? 

In a study compiled by the Ecological Sanitation Research Programme (EcoSanRes) on sanitation policy in Ghana, shared facilities lacking hygiene and proper containment of human waste are the main culprits in the spread of disease and illness in a community. According to Ghana’s Ministry of Health (MOH), about 70 per cent of the economic cost of health problems in Ghana can be attributed to diseases related to contamination from poor sanitation and inadequate hygiene, taking into account lost labor and the cost of resources.  

A background paper compiled for the West Africa Regional Sanitation and Hygiene Symposium in Accra earlier this month, indicates that Ghana has made some improvements in sanitation. Though better than other West African countries at 51% of the population having access to shared facilities, the rate of progress in expanding access recently has been comparatively slow. When it comes to overall sanitation coverage and access, most countries, including Ghana, fall well short of the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goal (MDG). By 2015, the MDG has set forth the goal of reducing the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation worldwide by half. According to the IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre, many developing countries, including Ghana, are not likely to meet this and other MDG goals for sanitation. 

There is light at the end of the toilet paper roll however. Many agencies are working on comprehensive strategies to combat the barriers to proper sanitation access. Nonetheless, more needs to be done on unifying efforts amongst the sanitation industry players in government, the private and public sectors if Ghana is to meet the UN’s Millennium Development Goal on sanitation. Not only to meet the MDG goals, but more urgently to prevent the millions of deaths associated with poor sanitation. 

Improving sanitation means improving the quality of human life in Ghana and across the globe. World Toilet Day brings the issue out of the gutter and into full light. We encourage you to urge your local politicians to make sanitation a priority today so that you and your children can have a healthier tomorrow.

Tel: 233 21 928245, 233 24 3340112. Email:


Hayford Siaw

Executive Director- Volunteer Partnerships for West Africa (VPWA)


Jalyn Feth.

Correspondent – NGO News Africa


Source: NGO News Africa, project of Volunteer Partnerships for West Africa (VPWA).