By: Willemien Jansen (Copy and Content Editor)
Most of us take having a working toilet in our homes for granted. For this reason, it's not a topic you would easily find discussed at a dinner party. So, why should we care about World Toilet Day? Because 3.6 billion people worldwide are not as lucky as most of us are. For this reason, the United Nations (UN) encourages people around the world to commemorate World Toilet Day on 19 November.
This year's theme is about valuing toilets, and the campaign aims to draw attention to the fact that toilets, and the sanitation systems that are supposed to support them, are under-funded, poorly managed, neglected, and can have devastating consequences for health in poor and marginalised communities. South Africa, amongst other countries, also prioritises sanitation and is trying to ensure that every person has access to dignified sanitation by 2030, in line with the National Development Plan. Unfortunately, young children attending public schools in rural areas are still dying from falling into pit toilets, "drowning in sludge and filth". The use of pit toilets in schools has been banned since 2013, but is still a reality for many learners in 2021 (3 297 South African schools still have pit toilets, and 253 schools have no water).
Poor sanitation is linked to the transmission of diseases like cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid and polio; all preventable. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), inadequate sanitation is estimated to cause 432 000 diarrhoeal deaths annually and is a major causal factor in neglected tropical diseases like intestinal worms, schistosomiasis and trachoma.
So what can ordinary citizens do to help fight the war against poor sanitation? Baby Soft has been in partnership with WaterAid since 2018 and has changed the lives of many South Africans. Their initiative, focusing on schools in the under-resourced Limpopo province, has already benefitted 10 schools. All you have to do to get involved is to buy the specially marked Baby Soft toilet paper 18s pack, and Baby Soft will donate R4 from each sale to building sanitation facilities in rural South African schools. Another company that has been making huge strides in improving sanitation in South Africa is Domestos. Over the past decade the brand has assisted communities with toilet refurbishments, resulting in over 11 000 students now having access to adequate sanitation.
To learn more about the UN's various initiatives and to get involved on social media, visit the UN's World Toilet Day page.
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