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Celebrating the toilet

Many people imagine the toilet to be the dirtiest place in their home (it’s not, see below). The toilet is a tolerated necessity, but not worthy of our admiration. Yet today on World Toilet Day the facts are clear: toilets save lives. The result of not having a toilet or safe sanitation – the reality for 2.5 billion people in the world – is devastating. Every 20 seconds around the world a child dies from diarrheal diseases related to poor sanitation.

Though World Toilet Day has been celebrated since 2001, this marks the first year it has been an officially designated day by the United Nations. The problems caused by lack of sanitation are enormous. Diarrhea is the leading cause of illness and death in the world, and 88 percent of diarrheal deaths are due to a lack of access to sanitation facilities, inadequate water for hygiene and unsafe drinking water.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque, has warned that the sanitation target set by the UN Millennium Development Goals is today the most off-track of all, leaving around one billion people still practicing open defecation on a daily basis, and one-third of the world’s population “without access to improved sanitation.”

“This is a euphemism to describe the undignified life of billions of people who have no place to defecate or urinate and have to do it without conditions of safety, hygiene, privacy or dignity,” said de Albuquerque. Eighty three percent of countries have fallen significantly behind the national targets they have set for sanitation.

“I hope this declaration galvanizes national and international action to reach the billions of people who still do not benefit from this basic human right,” de Albuquerque said. “Toilets are the symbol of dignity for billions of people who still cannot enjoy them. Let’s cherish them, let’s prioritize them – let’s celebrate them!”

Spread the word, not germs

Want to let a friend know how important toilets really are? Check out the free e-cards available at Water For People. This non-profit organization works in communities around the world to provide safe drinking water and improved sanitation for everyone. Xylem Watermark, Xylem’s corporate responsibility and social investment program, works closely with Water For People in India and Peru on projects that bring clean sanitation to schools and communities.

Water For People also works to ensure that their solutions last by requiring local financial contributions and participation. Click here to make a donation.

Where is the dirtiest place in your home?

A recent UK study by UNICEF and Domestos has revealed that it is not the toilet. Video game controllers carried nearly five times more bacteria than a toilet seat, and fridge handles were four times as dirty. The real winner in filth, though, was the arms of couches, coming in at 12 times dirtier than toilet seats. Regular hand washing, the report concluded, is the best way to stop the spread of germs around the house.

by Simon