Why I am writing this for World Toilet Day


November 19th, 2016

Yesterday I told one of my friends that I was writing a blog for World Toilet Day and he laughed at me! “You’re kidding? There is actually a World Toilet Day? What will they think of next?”

I was left speechless and offended by his response. But I guess he doesn’t understand the significance. He’s never had to worry about having nowhere to go (except being caught short in a traffic jam on a motorway). Decent toilets are just there…they are part of everyday life.

World Toilet Day is an international day to draw global attention to the sanitation crisis. It’s about taking action to reach the 2.4 billion people living without a toilet. Toilets save lives, increase productivity, create jobs and grow economies.

Devastating impact

I’ve seen first-hand the devastating impact of not having a access to a decent toilet. Many of you will have seen it on TV when watching Comic Relief but nothing can prepare you for what it is really like.  The poverty and terrible conditions I witnessed during my visit to a slum called Nyalenda in Kisumu, Kenya, shocked me to the core. It’s hard to describe how utterly terrible the few toilets I saw were, or the stench that lingered in the air. Open sewage ran through the slum and waste lined small paths. The children played near the open sewage and walked around with bare feet.  I found it really difficult to deal with and battled with feelings of guilt, sadness and helplessness.

In this slum, only 32% of the population have access to improved toilets; 25% use shared pit latrines and 30% defecate outside.

 

Karen Bolo

This is Karen Bolo. Her house has no toilet or running water. Her neighbourhood was hit by an outbreak of cholera and a ten-year-old girl from a neighbouring plot died. Karen says she was terrified that the same thing would happen to her children.

“I have nowhere to go to the toilet at all here because we don’t have the capacity and I can’t afford to buy a new one. I have to ask for help from the neighbouring plots. For our children we have to put down a newspaper and ask the neighbours [who have pit latrines] if we can get rid of it there. It makes me feel awful because it is demeaning to have to ask for this.”

 

Patrick

Her neighbour, 65-year-old Patrick Odliambo, said land near to his home is covered in waste and flying toilets.

“Around March/April, the rains come and wash the waste down the paths. Faeces flow with the storm water. During that time there are lots of cases of illness such as diarrhoea and malaria. Help does not come quickly; there are bad cases, especially for small children. Even now, my daughter is sick. She is vomiting and has a headache. This is from the environment. There are shallow wells which people drink from; they are not clean and people get sick.”

 

 

Transforming lives with toilets

But it is here that we have just launched a £1 million, six-year project funded by Comic Relief to transform the lives of 95,000 people by improving sanitation facilities in Nyalenda and another slum in Kisumu.

This project will work with communities to provide 1,125 improved toilets. 2,500 new water pumps will also be installed through the pipe network.

I’m really excited to see how the project progresses.

Three years later following another project in Kenya…

We have recently completed another sanitation project in Kenya – this time in Nakuru – to improve the quality of life for 190,000 slum residents by providing access to safe, hygenic toilets and hand washing facilities. And we worked with Anthony and other pit emptiers to improve their health, enable them to provide an essential service to their community and raise their status.

Nakuru Kenya urban slum sanitation toilet

I wrote a blog about Anthony Ndugu for World Toilet Day three years ago and I felt I needed to include him in this one, not only because the theme for this year’s World Toilet Day is ‘toilets and jobs’ because we caught up with him recently to find out how life has changed for him.

Anthony would have to empty toilets with his bare hands. He suffered abuse and discrimination as a result of doing his job. People in his community would shun him and woouldn’t go anywhere near him. The pay was so terrible that it wasn’t enough to take care of school fees, household needs, rent and all his other needs.

As part of the project, his team received a gulper so they no longer have to manually empty the latrines. They were also given protective clothing.

“They are unique to us. We look professional – like a team. The local government has given us a certificate. We get more business and we are not harassed like we were before. My family are so happy; they are fed and my children can get an education.”

I’m really proud about the work we do and I was thrilled last year when a Sustainable Development Goal was agreed to achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all by 2030 and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations.

This goal is ambitious. We have a long way to go in achieving even basic sanitation for all, and only 14 years to achieve it. So that’s why we need your help.

I am counting my blessings that I have a nice toilet to use and if you are too please consider helping people like Karen and Patrick get access to better sanitation, improve their health and restore their dignity. You could give a gift that transforms lives – like a life-saving loo!

One response to “Why I am writing this for World Toilet Day”

  1. Moch Subkhan Says:

    Yes, healthy life starting from the toilet clean

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