Did you know there is an annual World Toilet Day celebrated by the UN? Yeah, me neither–until about 2 weeks go. November 19, 2020 was the World Toilet Day. Not the flashiest of days to commemorate, but WASH and sanitation has always been so important. It’s so important that it is the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal #6 which is ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. According to the UN, “4.2 billion people living without access to safely managed sanitation” and 3 billion people lack proper handwashing facilities at their home. That’s 54% of the world’s population, and
I remember almost losing my mind when I saw The Melinda & Bill Gates Foundation’s 3-part Netflix documentary, “Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates Part 1”, which debuted last October. Having spent my childhood growing in Nigeria, I knew what it was like to not have adequate infrastructure for waste and sanitation. So I was so excited that someone was influential as Bill Gates was shedding light on the topic. In fact, I watched the special back to back…and I started a blog post, but I never published it.
A year later, this week, I got another chance to write this blogpost because WASH (Water, Sanitation & Hygiene) are more important than ever during this current COVID-19 pandemic. We all need access to water for cleaning, and good hand hygiene to avoid contracting COVID-19, and of course we all need proper sanitation and waste management, pandemic or not. So it is clear that there is a lot of work to do in the field, in the developing world
So I took part in the World Toilet Day Summit which was hosted by the World Toilet Organization. Accomplished professionals in the WASH world from Asia, Europe and the US spoke , including Jack Sim, Mark Balla, Hayato Hanaoka, Sarika Saluja, and Tasnine. (I missed speakers from Africa, Australia, and Latin America, if there were any). Here are the things I learned which surprised me:
- Research from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society shows that 84% of people are not washing their hands for long enough, 64% don’t wash their hands before eating, 50% don’t wash their hands after touching pets, 34% don’t wash their hands before preparing food, 21% not washing hands after using the toilet.
- The London School of Tropical Medicine found that only 32% of men and 64% of women wash their hands with soap after using a public toilet. *DISGUSTING!*
- Public urination happens in back alleys in global megacities around the world, including in London and Tokyo, usually by drunk people after public toilets are closed.
These findings are a result of polling people in “developed” countries, so it’s clear that WASH is an universally important need for all the world, especially during a global pandemic.
There was so much more I learned, I will share when the time comes. But in the meantime, wash your hands, folks (with soap).