November 19: A day for toilets?!?


November 19, 2015 – from Ilan Adler

A couple of years ago the UN General Assembly adopted the resolution “Sanitation for All”, in which it designated November 19 as Toilet Day. But does the entire world really need to dedicate a day to… the toilet? We might actually need many more! Let’s explore this.

What is a toilet?

A toilet is a piece of equipment or furniture that is used to get rid of human waste – you know, pee and poo; urine and feces; number one and number two. They have been around for a long time (maybe even 5,000 years!) and were used by many civilizations. The Romans, for example, are known for having public toilets and bath-houses like the one in the picture.


These toilets would have running water below and would take the waste away from the city and away from the drinking water sources. And that is the main idea: no matter whether it is a sitting or squatting toilet, a flushing or a dry toilet, a toilet should help us safely remove waste from where we live and protect our water sources from being contaminated.

Why do we need toilets?

Toilets are a key part of sanitation: the safe disposal of human waste. When urine, feces, and water mix, there are several pathogens that can cause diseases like cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid and polio. If human urine and feces are not taken care of in the right way, these pathogens can end up in our drinking water and in our food. The World Health Organization estimates 280,000 people die every year because of lack of adequate sanitation, and over 2 billion (that is 2,000,000,000) people do not have access to a basic toilet (Read more).


In some cases, even when people do, these toilets are difficult to reach (like this latrine from a slum in Bangladesh), or in places where women and girls have to go alone and are exposed to the risk of violence.

But why toilet day?

One of the challenges to making sure everybody has a toilet that is safe to use and will let us handle human waste properly is that there is a big taboo when it comes to this topic. Speaking about peeing, pooing, urinating, defecating, making numbers 1 and 2, and where to do it is not well accepted in many cultures. To take on this challenge, the World Toilet Organization started Toilet Day in 2001 because what we don’t discuss, we can’t improve.

The yearly event has helped spread the word and is now celebrated around the world. This year, the toilet day will be focusing on “the link between sanitation and nutrition”. You can join the global conversation on the 2015 Toilet Day official website or on thunderclap page.

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