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Clean toilets can’t wait: how better sanitation changes lives

World Vision
19 November 2014 by Laura Tay
Clean toilets can’t wait: how better sanitation changes lives

Access to clean and safe toilets is essential for healthy communities where children can thrive. Photo by Kenneth Kibet, World Vision

Can you imagine having to go to the toilet in an outside pit latrine that is about 70 metres away in -35 degrees cold? Or having to miss school, because the toilets there were so dirty they made you sick? Or being harassed, even attacked, as you make your way to use the toilet?

Some people use the word ‘throne’ as slang for the toilet – and it’s fitting, given just how luxurious a clean and safe toilet is in a world where 2.5 billion people don’t have access to one.

It’s a problem that spreads further than just discomfort – the examples above are just some of the ways that poor sanitation can impact communities. It’s estimated that 2.4 million deaths could be prevented each year, if people had the basic necessities like adequate water supply, improved sanitation facilities and education about good hygiene practices.

It’s an issue that World Vision is working hard to help solve, through our Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programs around the world.

World Vision Australia’s WASH advisor Rajesh Pasupuleti says that people need access to improved sanitation services, not just in their homes, but also throughout their communities.

Toilet access and use is crucial in schools and health centres; without proper sanitation facilities, students don’t learn as effectively. Health facilities without toilets put lives at risk. World Vision Australia WASH projects motivate communities to build their toilets and integrates education and health programs to maximise value for money and improve the effectiveness of our aid program.”

World Vision has partnered with communities in Mongolia where the toilet facilities in schools were so poor, children would choose to relieve themselves behind the school buildings. The school toilets were outdoor pit latrines – in a country where the winter temperatures plunge as low as -35 degrees Celsius. There was no clean water supply for children to drink from or wash their hands with. The conditions meant that the school grounds were polluted with waste and infectious diseases spread amongst the children.

The solution? World Vision partnered with local schools to build indoor toilet facilities, including seated flushing toilets, hand washing sinks and sewerage systems. Now the students can stay out of the cold weather, use safe toilets and practice good hygiene at school.

“As a result of the above interventions, infectious disease incidences have not been recorded at targeted schools and there has been an increase in school attendance and performance especially among girls,” says Davis Wamawungo, World Vision Australia’s Portfolio Advisor for Mongolia.

At a school in central Sri Lanka, run-down toilet facilities were leading to poor student attendance and the spread of illnesses like diarrhoea. Many children disliked coming to school, and girls would stop coming altogether when they began to menstruate, rather than having to use the school toilets.

Through local WASH programs, World Vision was able to support the school to build new toilets for the students, as well as wash basins, septic tanks and fencing to separate the school playground from the unclean waters of a nearby river. Students participated in hygiene awareness programs and were taught to keep their new toilets clean – which they have done a great job of so far.

“As far as a healthy environment is concerned, the school’s water and sanitation facilities stood at zero level. But now we have achieved excellent water and sanitation conditions for the school,” says the school’s Principal, Mr. Nandana.

Toilets are a small but fundamental part of everyday life – and everyone deserves access to a clean, safe toilet. You can support World Vision’s WASH programs by sponsoring a child – or by purchasing School Toilets from the World Vision Gift Catalogue.

Laura Tay Laura Tay

Laura is a Writer for World Vision Australia.


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