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Toilets: Ick? Maybe. Essential? Yes! 

To those of us with easy access to toilets, we may not think much about their value. We may just see them as a place to relieve ourselves and flush it away.

To the almost 5 billion people around the world still without access to safely managed sanitation, a toilet means so much more. The 2018 theme for World Toilet Day is 'toilets and nature' -- focusing on how sanitation -- or the lack of it -- affects our natural environment. We must build toilets and sanitation systems that work in harmony with ecosystems.


In our continued advocacy for menstrual health for girls and women globally, we want to ensure share these two excellent videos, created by our friends at WASH United, about the importance of toilets to support menstrual health. 445 million women and girls currently go to the toilet in the open!

To learn more about menstrual hygiene, check out our recent five-part webinar series on menstrual hygiene. Incidentally, check out this new guide from our friends at WaterAid, WSUP, and UNICEF: Female-friendly public and community toilets - guide.

What it's like to be a girl on her period without access to a working toilet? Check out this great new video by our friends at WASH United, to give you a bit of an idea of what it might be like.
Check out this infographic about why period-friendly toilets matter! (Courtesy of our friends at WASH United.)
This video helps us understand what a period-friendly toilet is. Let's make sure that safely managed sanitation includes period-friendly toilets! 


  • Toilets mean clean environments: The UN estimates that 892 million people practice open defecation,which contaminates the natural environment and spreads diarrhoeal disease. Also, even where toilets exist, if waste water is not treated properly, it can contaminate ground and surface water and destroy ecosystems. Without toilets, we turn our environemnt into an open sewer. 1.8 people use a water source that could be contaiminated with faeces. This is unacceptable! 
  • Toilets mean health -- especially for moms and young children: When faeces are separated from human contact and the environment, women and children are more protected from disease and malnutrition. Close to half of all child deaths are related to undernutrition and suboptimal feeding practices. Currently, at least 20 per cent of all maternal deaths are related to women being stunted and having anaemia.
  • Toilets mean safety: Sexual harassment and rape are a risk for many women who have to wait until nightfall to relieve themselves in the open. Access to a toilet affords not only privacy, but increased safety. 
  • Toilets mean equity and dignity: Women and girls don't need a toilet just for defecation. They also need a private, safe place to take care of special needs during menstruation, pregnancy and the post-natal period. Toilets, when they are built to be accessible to people with disabilities, affirm dignity and basic human rights for all, and promote inclusion in society.  
  • Toilets mean better nutrition: When people defecate in the open, it enables diseases like diarrhoea and intestinal worms to spread quickly. According to the World Health Organization, roughly 50% of all malnutrition cases are associated with repeated diarrhoea or intestinal worm infections as a direct result of inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene. A vicious cycle exists between diarrhea and undernutrition, especially for children.

November 19 is World Toilet Day -- a day designated by the United Nations General Assembly to urge changes in both behaviour and policy on issues ranging from enhancing water management to ending open air defecation. Now in its 17th year, World Toilet Day inspires action to tackle global sanitation challenges through improving sanitation facilities and services, strengthening the effectiveness and financial sustainability of wastewater management utilities, and raising public awareness about the health benefits of eliminating open defecation.

Copyright © 2018 World Vision International, All rights reserved.

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