November 19, 2011 is World Toilet Day. The World Toilet Organization commemorates World Toilet Day to raise awareness about the global need for sanitation facilities. According to the WTO website, 2.6 billion people lack access to sufficient sanitation facilities.
Last year, 51 events in 19 countries urged people to solve this public health problem. The WTO runs an annual World Toilet Summit, where experts gather to discuss ways to increase access to basic sanitation, and World Toilet College, where professors research sanitation technologies and train the next generation of sanitation experts.
SaniShop puts the findings of the WTO into practice. SaniShop reduces the costs of toilets so that they are affordable in underdeveloped regions, reaches out to manufacturers to provide units, and supports local entrepreneurs who can make a living selling, building, maintaining and repairing sanitation facilities.
In countries with universal access to toilets, environmental groups have the luxury of focusing on comparatively mild pollution that takes years to cause diseases. Some forget that human fecal matter is the most dangerous pollutant on Earth in terms of the deaths it causes. In regions without proper sanitation facilities, untreated human fecal matter ends up in the drinking water supply where it becomes a vector for spreading viruses, bacteria, and parasites. These harmful organisms cause diarrhea that can be severe enough to kill someone with dehydration.
The World Health Organization’s figures from 2001 indicate that 2.438 million people die each year from diarrheal diseases such as cholera, making it the 7th highest cause of death. Children are particularly vulnerable to diarrheal diseases. They kill 1.5 million children every year, and they are the second leading cause of death in children under five.
Groups such as the World Toilet Organization are working hard to reduce deaths from diarrheal diseases by increasing access to sanitation. Centered in Singapore, the WTO uses boot strapping entrepreneurial methods to protect drinking water from intestinal pathogens. Its work brings humanity closer to the day when everyone can take toilets for granted.