World Toilet Day aims to improve sanitation for 2.5 billion

Posted at 8:10 AM, Nov 19, 2013
and last updated 2013-11-19 08:10:37-05

By Frances Cha

(CNN) — As many of the devastating stories and photos of typhoon-wrecked Philippines show, one of the most pressing problems of the Philippines crisis is the lack of toilets and the collapse of water systems.

Tacloban is currently facing a desperate lack of sustainable sanitation. UNICEF, among other organizations, has delivered portable toilets and hygiene supplies to Tacloban and is appealing for $34 million to help the four million children affected by Typhoon Haiyan, the estimated amount for six months of assistance.

The lack of sustainable sanitation that the Tacloban region is suddenly facing is part of daily life for an astonishingly high percentage of the world’s population.

To throw a spotlight on the issue, the United Nations General Assembly declared this year would kick off the inaugural World Toilet Day on November 19.

“We must break the taboos and make sanitation for all a global development priority,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in an official statement in Singapore last July.

Some sobering facts about the world’s lack of toilets, according to the United Nations:

2.5 billion people — one in three people in the world — do not have a toilet or access to sustainable sanitation Diarrheal diseases are the second most common cause of death in young children in developing countries They kill more than HIV/AIDS, malaria and measles combined In many countries girls stay home during menstruation days because of the absence of a safe place to change and clean themselves, and many drop out altogether

Due to the unglamorous nature of the subject matter, toilets tend to take the back seat when it comes to awareness and fundraising.

“We aim to make these hugely important issues relevant and sexy,” says Garvey Chui, the Asia representative for Toilet Hackers, a nonprofit organization trying to give access to “dignified sanitation” to those without.

“For many Westernized travelers — particularly for many women travelers, no matter how well-seasoned — sanitation and access to clean toilets becomes a serious consideration when traveling,” says Chui.

“But for those without access to safe, clean and private toilets and sanitation, it is more than an inconvenience, it can be life or death,” says the Toilet Hackers rep.

“One very dangerous time for a woman in a developing country, and one of the main times she may get sexually assaulted, is when she is going to the washroom. When there is no toilet to go to, she is vulnerable and exposed when she is going outdoors or in a public space, often late at night and away from people.”

From the two-story toilet-shaped toilet museum (the former home of a toilet-obsessed congressman and mayor in South Korea) to weird and wacky toilet-themed restaurants (yes, restaurants) from London to Beiing, check out our gallery for where to celebrate World Toilet Day.

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