World Toilet Day is marked on the 19th of November annually. The Day is used to inspire action to address the global sanitation crisis and help achieve Goal Six of the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs which advocates sanitation for all by 2030. The 2019 event is under the theme: “Leaving No One Behind”. A toilet is not just a place in a building. It is considered a life-saver, dignity-protector and one of the many essential things in life.
Sanitation is deemed a human right issue and yet, today, 4.2 billion people live without safely managed sanitation.

It is said that about 673 million people still practice open defecation worldwide. This calls for vigorous efforts aimed at expanding access to safe toilets everywhere, be it at homes, markets, farms, offices and other public places in order to prevent open defecation and its associated diseases. What is ‘Safely Managed Sanitation’? According to the UN bodies, “when people have a ‘safely managed sanitation service’, it means they use hygienic toilet facilities that are not shared with other households and where excreta are either separated from human contact and safely disposed of in situ or transported and treated off-site, thereby protecting people and the environment from disease agents. Examples include flush toilets connected to piped sewer systems, septic tanks or latrine pits and ventilated improved pit latrines.

Inadequate sanitation is estimated to cause 432,000 diarrheal deaths every year. Also, according to the UN 297,000 children under five are estimated to die each year from diarrhoea as a result of unsafe drinking water, sanitation and hand hygiene. Available reports from Education Management Information System, EMIS 2018, indicate that 30% and 49% of all basic schools both public and private in Ghana lack access to basic sanitation and water facilities. Between 2013 and 2018, the proportion of public basic schools with access to improved toilet facilities increased from 60 to 65%. Within the same period, the proportion of private basic schools with access to improved toilet facilities reduced from 84 to 82%. This means that nationally, there was only one per cent improvement in access to improved sanitation from 69 to 70% within a five-year period.

With this rate of improvement, it is feared that it might take the country about 150 years to address schools without access to improved toilet facilities problem and the general sanitation menace across the country. It is the responsibility of all stakeholders including the Ministries of Sanitation, Local Government and Rural Development, Local Assemblies, landlords and individuals to ensure the provision of decent toilets facilities at the required places. It is important for Local Authorities to start prosecuting landlords who rent their property without the provision of toilet facilities. Because exposed human excreta spreads killer diseases, it is vital to properly handle faeces.

Toilets save lives. The practice where people defecate into polythene bags and disposed off indiscriminately, while others turn beaches and bushes into their places of convenience must stop. We salute all open defecation free campaigners across the country such as the Media Coalition Against Open Defecation and organisations like World Vision, UNICEF and GAMA for their contributions towards making our communities open defecation free. May the celebration of this year’s toilet day be a turning point in the fight against open defecation and increase access to safely managed and decent toilets for all.


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