Shit – this is something we really need to talk about.

For our second blog of 2019, we hear from MIDPA’s Managing Blog Editor and Website Editor, Yvanah Hernandez, and her emphasis in gaining support and greater awareness for World Toilet Day.

Toilets.

We don’t give them much thought. Probably not at all. They’re just porcelain-made objects that often sit in our bathroom or have their own special room – hopefully with its own exhaust fan. We all know what goes in there. But do we talk about it? Not really. Do we admire its significance in our life? Probably not. Unless you happen to be a woman, like me, who has had painful experiences standing impatiently in a lengthy queue of a shopping centre, stadium or theatre, waiting to use the bathroom, desperately wishing that the female race was more ‘stereotypically’ efficient in the toilet than men.

Photo Source: The Japan Times 2019, “Restroom Queue,” https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2010/09/26/cartoons/restroom-queue/#.XJC0iBMzY_U

Whether designed for a sitting or squatting posture, toilets safely collect and dispose of our urine and faeces. But they are so much more! They are the world’s sanitation haven. A sanctuary we often neglect and billions of people globally, have no access to one.

UN-Water estimates that 62.5 per cent of the world’s population don’t have access to safe sanitation and 1.8 billion people use drinking water sources that are contaminated with human waste. Okay, so now those white pieces of hardware in our bathrooms seem a little more significant – well, in comparison to how much credit we give them for saving our lives on a daily basis.

Toilets are important. We should hug them for protecting us from contamination, infections and poor health. Then again, maybe we shouldn’t hug them. But we should definitely stop taking them for granted.

Photo Source: World Toilet Day 2018, “World Toilet Day,” http://www.worldtoiletday.info/wtd2018/resources/social-media/

Increasing global access to toilets, particularly for remote communities improves sanitation levels. It eliminates disease by reducing the risk of diarrhoea and the spread of intestinal worms. It improves health conditions and the impact of malnutrition, particularly on developing and vulnerable bodies. It promotes dignity and safety. It strengthens school attendance, particularly for girls during their menstruation cycle. Undoubtedly, improved sanitation is a human right, no matter where one lives in the world. A study by the World Health Organisation in 2012 calculated that for every US$ 1.00 invested in sanitation, there was a return of US$ 5.50 in lower health costs, more productivity, and fewer premature deaths.

However, increasing access and availability of toilets is an international challenge. Poor sanitation is being exacerbated by global water scarcity, increasing salinisation, climate change, rapid population growth and development. Around 892 million people in the world use no toilet at all. When nature calls, they go out in the open. That means millions of children are growing up with human waste in their environment, putting them at risk of deadly diseases. Therefore, strengthening water efficiency and improving water management for sanitation purposes is critical to balance the world’s increasing sanitation and water demand.

On the 19 November each year, we celebrate World Toilet Day. It’s a day to advocate for every person, no matter where in the world, to have safe access to a toilet by 2030. This is in collaboration with Goal Six of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. Whilst November is quite some time in the future, it’s never too early to advocate for everyone’s human right in accessing a safe toilet.

Are you courageous enough to join the movement and get involved?

Join us, and share on your social media, on behalf of the world’s most vulnerable people without access to those white porcelain objects in our bathrooms, the importance of toilets!

Want to read more? Click here – http://www.worldtoiletday.info/wtd2018/

Nature is calling!

Resources:

Lijster, M 2016, “10 reasons we should care about toilets,” viewed 13 March 2019, https://www.eco-business.com/opinion/10-reasons-we-should-care-about-toilets/

United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) 2018, “When nature calls, where do you go?” viewed 13 March 2019, https://blogs.unicef.org/blog/when-nature-calls-where-do-you-go/

World Toilet Day 2018, “World Toilet Day,” viewed 13 March 2019 http://www.worldtoiletday.info/wtd2018/

**Statistics from UN-Water, the World Health Organisation and World Toilet Day gathered from http://www.worldtoiletday.info/wtd2018/resources/

The Happiness Metric

Photo by Ismael Nieto
Photo by Ismael Nieto

Happiness. Isn’t it the most important thing one can achieve in life? What is a life without happiness? In 2012 the United Nations published the first World Happiness Report, which measures Happiness through GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity, and perception of corruption. Recently the 2016 World Happiness Report was published, and Denmark was ranked as the most happy country in the world.

I am born and raised in Denmark. So I should have some kind of understanding of leading a happy life, if we shall have any trust in the statistics. In Denmark there is a high tax system which enables every citizen access to free healthcare, free education including university, and a social safety net in case of unemployment. In contrast to many other countries, you can’t buy an education, meaning the education system chooses their students based on merit and not from social class or income. This also enables social mobility and freedom of choice in life.

In terms of reaching the Sustainable Development Goals, every person should ideally have this level of well-being. What seems to be the problem is that the economic and social wealth that currently exists in Denmark is based on roughly 200 years of economic growth, and Denmark’s ecological footprint is 5.5 global hectares (gha) per capita. This high ecological footprint in itself is an indicator that everyone simply can’t have this standard of living. How do we, as a global and interconnected society handle these kinds of paradoxical, complex and ethical issues?

The World Happiness Report is supposed to indicate development based on factors other than just GDP, but isn’t the economy still an underlying mechanism in many of the factors that are being measured? How can a poor country have social support, a good healthcare system, and long life expectancy without economic growth? I guess a very central question in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals is: how we can ensure fairly, the well-being of everyone without killing our planet? Furthermore if happiness is measured by factors that implies economic growth, how can we make happiness compatible with environmental sustainability?