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Toilets for safety, nature and twinning

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World Toilet Day 2018, UN Water, Toilet Twinning, public health, safety, women and girls, SDC 6, water and sanitationThe problems generated by open defecation go beyond the issues of disease and indignity.

World Toilet Day, celebrated on 19 November, is about taking action to ensure that everyone has a safe toilet by 2030. This is part of Sustainable Development Goal 6: sanitation and water.

Today, 4.5 billion people live without a safe toilet and 892 million people still practise open defecation – going to the toilet in the streets, fields and bushes near their homes.

This means human faeces, on a massive scale, is not being captured or treated.

The impact of exposure to human faeces on this scale has a devastating impact upon public health, living conditions, nutrition, education and economic productivity across the world.

The problems generated by this practice go beyond the issues of disease and indignity.

Girls and women living in areas where open defecation is widespread often wait until the cover of darkness to venture outside to relieve themselves.

The absence of a safe toilet close to home can result in attack and rape and murder; but 445 million women and girls will have no choice but to go to the toilet in the open.

And alongside that, one fifth of schools worldwide do not provide any toilet facilities – a particular problem for girls during menstruation.

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) aims to ensure that everyone has a safe toilet and that no-one practises open defecation by 2030.

But currently the world is not on track to reach this goal and ensure availability and sustainable management of sanitation and water.

Failing to achieve this goal risks the entire 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

UN Water‘s World Toilet Day 2018 is about toilets and nature.

Helping to achieve SDG 6 at both the national and global level, and keeping girls and women safe is thus vital.

The challenge has inspired many organisations to develop sustainable and affordable sanitation models, such as ‘composting latrines’ that biodegrade human waste ready to be used as a fertiliser for crops.

Many such models are designed to be built and maintained by communities themselves, helping to foster a sense of ownership, which is crucial in changing the often ingrained practice of open defecation.

In a ‘community-led total sanitation’ approach, citizens are made aware of the link between deadly disease outbreaks and open defecation due to the lack of latrines.

And when communities have learned about the effects of open defecation on their health they can be inspired to build latrines and eradicate open defecation.

‘Domestic wastewater’ is made up of three basic components: water (e.g. urine and greywater), carbon and nutrients (e.g. bodily and food waste).

Safely treated and/or extracted, these are useful components for various purposes such as growing food or producing bio-energy.

Human-made wetlands are intended to reduce organic matter and pathogens in wastewater to a minimum, helping to make discharge safer.

The effluent leaving constructed wetlands can still have relatively high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, making it a highly suitable source of water for irrigation.

Constructed wetlands are also among the world’s most productive ecosystems, capable of producing relatively large quantities of biomass.

This biomass can be harvested at regular intervals to be used as biofuel.

It is estimated that about 12 per cent of the cooking fuel needs of a 60-person village in sub-Saharan Africa can be supplied from the biomass of a constructed wetland, thereby reducing reliance on wood fuels.

And if you want help solve the toilet shortage, try toilet twinning.

Toilet Twinning is a water and sanitation initiative.

A project aiming to flush away poverty, one toilet at a time.

By donating £60 to twin your toilet, you help those in desperate poverty to have access to a proper latrine, clean water and the information they need to be healthy.

And your smallest room can become the proud owner of a certificate, complete with a colour photo of its twin, and GPS coordinates so you can look up your twin’s location on Google Maps.

Or you could twin your workplace, your university, your church, or your town.

To find out more, click here.

And to find out what Toilet Twinning supporters were up to on World Toiet Day, click here.

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