Skip to Content

World Toilet Day and Nonprofit Management: 4 Surprising Facts

By Alix Charles November 26, 2017

November 19th was World Toilet Day. In observance of this important global initiative, explores the issue by sharing 4 facts you may not know about toilets:

1. Over half of our world’s population does not have a toilet in their home.

That’s right. 4.5 billion people live without a household toilet that safely disposes of their waste, and 892 million people worldwide still practice open defecation. This means they “go” in fields, streets, open sewers and other places where they lack privacy and safety. That’s almost 3 times the entire population of the United States!

Salesforce powers nonprofits that help address pressing issues like sanitation.
Photo Credit: mightyboybrian / CC BY-NC

2. Access to toilets is a human right.

People who have access to a flushing toilet in their homes don’t often stop to think about the full gamut of benefits that these provide: privacy and dignity are two important ones, as is the health aspect of having a sanitary way to dispose of human waste. Consider this: 1 in 10 child deaths worldwide are due to diarrhea, most commonly spread through contact with bacteria due to lack of clean sanitation facilities.

The issue of access to a safe and hygienic toilet is of such importance that the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals launched in 2015 include a goal solely dedicated to the issue: Goal #6 seeks to achieve “access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation.” Access to basic sanitation is a human right, a cornerstone to human dignity, and is essential for poverty eradication and economic development of communities and countries.

Nonprofits are taking action to address access to sanitation.
Photo Credit: UNICEF

3. Collaboration between NGOs, governments, and the private sector is crucial to increasing access to toilets.

Because access to sanitation and proper treatment of wastewater is a complex issue, most developing countries’ governments and utilities fail to deliver adequate services to their populations. The challenge is ever more severe in informal urban settlements, such as slums, where city and regional governments do not always feel responsible for providing basic needs to residents. Hence, the private sector often steps in to fill the gap in helping to provide access to toilets and sanitation to all citizens. Watch this short film from WSUP to see a public-private partnership in action.

Success in providing access to basic sanitation is not reserved to politicians, large NGOs, or complex partnerships. As Sanjay Wijesekera, UNICEF’s Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene points out, “on World Toilet Day, it’s crucial to acknowledge the importance of toilets, but also those who help people manage their challenging sanitation circumstances. We call them toilet heroes.” One such toilet hero is Lino Luís Nhandimo, pictured below, who is a faecal sludge operator in Mozambique, and proud to be working towards increasing the health of his community.

Lino Luís Nhandimo in Mozambique - sanitation worker helping improve global health
Photo Credit: UNICEF/UN0139437/PRINSLOO\

4. You can make a difference!

Wondering how you can help those who don’t have access to basic sanitation? Here are a three ways to make an impact:

      1. Learn more about the issue! Knowledge is the first step towards getting involved. The good news is that there are numerous online resources, reports, and studies available to learn about the issue of toilets and sanitation. A good place to start is UN-Water’s Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-water (GLAAS).
      2. Give the gift of a toilet! This #GivingTuesday, or during this year’s holiday season, consider giving the gift of a toilet! For as little as $45 to the International Rescue Committee, you can purchase supplies needed to construct a safe and private toilet in refugee camps or crisis zones. Because, as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) states in their recent World Toilet Day article, “lack of clean water and inadequate sanitation remains one of the biggest health concerns in any overcrowded refugee camp.”
      3. Support a public-private partnership! Donate to CARE’s SWASH+ Project which is making an important impact by influencing increased budgetary allocations for schools through demonstrating the importance of clean water and sanitation for students.

Example of a Red Cross volunteer working to improve sanitation for refugees.
Photo Credit: IFRC / A Red Cross volunteer helps a resident of a refugee settlement put tarpaulin on top his latrine in Imvepi Camp.