Did you know that one in three people do not have a safe, clean and private toilet? Most of those people live in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Yet the humble toilet can be a stepping stone to a healthy life, greater human dignity, freedom, equality between women, men, girls and boys, and finally, a catalyst to the development of communities and countries.
Illnesses that are a direct result of bad sanitation affect the quality of life of millions of people around the world, especially children. Diarrhoeal diseases are the second most common cause of death of young children in developing countries, killing more than HIV/AIDS, malaria and measles combined, and resulting in 1 death every 20 seconds.
There is a strong link between the absence of good sanitation and poverty. The economic growth in Europe and North America went hand-in-hand when the sanitary conditions improved markedly, resulting in individual health gains and increased labour productivity. Toilets are a symbol of better health, higher income, more education, higher social status and a cleaner living environment.
Yet, in many parts of the world, toilets are an unglamorous topic and talking about open defecation and its consequences is taboo. However, bringing clean toilets to those who are lacking them, is not a matter of breakthrough scientific technologies; it is foremost an issue of political leadership, plain speaking champions, raising awareness and hard work. It is up to everyone to turn the sanitation challenge around and make toilets sexy.