World Toilet Day seems like an excellent excuse for a plethora of bathroom humor memes. How can toilets, of all things, be an exciting topic worthy of its own day? But according to the United Nations, approximately "4.5 billion people worldwide do not have access to a household toilet that safely disposes of waste." That's 60 percent of the world's population. So perhaps toilets are more important than one might think.
When we consider that diarrheal issues are the second leading killers of children in the developing world, these statistics become more sobering. "The Sustainable Development Goals, launched in 2015, include a target to ensure everyone has access to a safely-managed household toilet by 2030. This makes sanitation central to eradicating extreme poverty."
One of the exciting programs that the organization I work for in Haiti is working on is a community healthcare worker program that, among other things, would identify at risk and ill individuals in order to treat diarrheal issues. We even have a volunteer that has designed a toilet that is safer for handicapped and disabled individuals in our Johnny's Kids program to use.
Many may wonder about the reality of installing toilets in developing world environments where there is no indoor plumbing or running water. There are many viable and clean forms of outdoor latrine-style toilets that alleviate the need for plumbing systems.
Most of these types of toilets that are not connected to sewage are called pit latrines. These latrines are the lowest cost method of separating fecal matter from humans and can prevent the spread of diarrheal diseases or intestinal worms. One of the best ones is a ventilated improved pit latrine. These cut down on smell and prevent disease-carrying flies from leaving the pit and spreading diseases. This is the kind LiveBeyond uses at its base in Haiti. If these pit latrines are kept at least 15 feet away from water sources, there is no likelihood of water contamination, further preventing the spread of disease.
And we are just scratching the surface with these toilet ideas. SOIL, an NGO in Haiti, is developing a clean method of turning human waste into compost. We look forward to sharing these strategies with the rest of the world, as well, as we all work together toward sustainable solutions for those in greatest need.
Sanitation, and toilets, really, are no laughing matter when it comes to the lives of children in the developing world. Together we can work to combat diarrheal disease in children by promoting the use of sanitary toilets and safe waste management practices.