More people have access to mobile phones than to bog-standard sanitation around the world.
The numbers are actually quite close – both are around the 4.5bn mark. But the implications are clear: we value a text, a tweet over one of our most basic sanitary needs: the loo.
Dionna Fry, a 2014 graduate from Emory University, spent last summer in Ethiopia devoting herself to toiletry. For six weeks, she worked with nonprofit organization Catholic Relief Services, going door to door to interview village leaders and families in different communities about how they liked Arborloos, low-cost and ecologically-friendly pit latrines with a concrete slab to squat over. The waste falls into the pit.
Introduced over the past 10 years in Ethiopia, the latrines protect families from diseases spread by open defecation and also turn human waste into an agricultural resource — the food to feed a plant tree that could eventually becomes a source of food and income for the family.
She says families, for most part liked it, and have grown trees that are taller than people.
Fry’s mind was on the toilet for most of the trip, but here’s a peek at her overall experience.
Did you try the toilet? What was it like?
All the Arborloos I used provided privacy [with lightweight walls] and had little odor. Users apply a mix of ash and soil to the pit after use. This decreases odor and the prevalence of flies.
Local habit you liked?
In Ethiopia they tear off a piece of injera [a spongy flatbread], wrap it around some food on the plate, mush it together and feed it to somebody. It’s a sign of respect and love, and the larger the piece the stronger the bond.
The hand that you clean yourself with after defecation, in many cultures, is the left hand, and so that’s considered the dirty hand. The thing is I’m left-handed, and you’re supposed to eat with your right hand. Sometimes I would forget and eat with my left hand, and I would think, “Oh shoot, people are going to think I’m gross.”
About 30 to 40 Gelada baboons, whole families with babies, were sitting on the road just hanging out, which caused a huge traffic jam.
Photo: An Ethiopian woman and her child stand next to an Arborloo latrine. (Courtesy of Dionna Fry)
SHEOHAR DISTRICT, India — He wore thick black eyeliner to ward off the evil eye, but Vivek, a tiny 1-year-old living in a village of mud huts and diminutive people, had nonetheless fallen victim to India’s great scourge of malnutrition.
His parents seemed to be doing all the right things. His mother still breast-fed him. His family had six goats, access to fresh buffalo milk and a hut filled with hundreds of pounds of wheat and potatoes. The economy of the state where he lives has for years grown faster than almost any other. His mother said she fed him as much as he would eat and took him four times to doctors, who diagnosed malnutrition. Just before Vivek was born in this green landscape of small plots and grazing water buffalo near the Nepali border, the family even got electricity.
So why was Vivek malnourished?
It is a question being asked about children across India, where a long economic boom has done little to reduce the vast number of children who are malnourished and stunted, leaving them with mental and physical deficits that will haunt them their entire lives. Now, an emerging body of scientific studies suggest that Vivek and many of the 162 million other children under the age of 5 in the world who are malnourished are suffering less a lack of food than poor sanitation.
Like almost everyone else in their village, Vivek and his family have no toilet, and the district where they live has the highest concentration of people who defecate outdoors. As a result, children are exposed to a bacterial brew that often sickens them, leaving them unable to attain a healthy body weight no matter how much food they eat.
food they eat.
(From The New York Times)
(By Shannti Dinnoo)
t’s early morning and local commuters are queuing up for tickets at the Kirti Nagar railway station in the Indian capital, Delhi.
Along the tracks, another crowd is gathering - each person on his own, separated by a modest distance. They are among the 48% of Indians who do not have access to proper sanitation.
Coming from a slum close-by, they squat among the few trees and bushes along the railway tracks and defecate in the open.
To many, this is a daily morning ritual despite the hazards of contracting diseases such as diarrhoea and hepatitis.
It can be even more hazardous for women since each time a woman uses the outdoors to relieve herself, she faces a danger of sexual assault.
Recently two teenage girls from the state of Uttar Pradesh were gang-raped and found hanging from a tree after they left their village home to go to the toilet. Their house, like hundreds of millions of others in the country, did not have any facilities.
A new World Health Organisation (WHO) report says more than half a billion people in India still “continue to defecate in gutters, behind bushes or in open water bodies, with no dignity or privacy”.
Access to sanitation is a challenge that India’s politicians want to tackle - both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) promised to put an end to open defecation in their 2014 general election manifestos.
During his campaign, Narendra Modi, BJP’s newly-elected prime minister, promised: “Toilets first, temples later”.
And former rural development minister Jairam Ramesh of the Congress party had stressed that “practicing good hygiene is as important as performing good puja” (act of worship in Hinduism).
India’s government offers cash incentives to subsidise construction of toilets. It has also initiated hygiene and sanitation awareness campaigns, such as the “No Toilet, No Bride” slogan launched in the state of Haryana in 2005, urging brides to reject a groom if he did not have a lavatory at home.
The Gates Foundation too has offered grants to create latrines that are not connected to water, sewer or electricity and to improve the treatment of human waste.
'Lack of focus'
The exhibits at a recent “toilet fair” organised by the Foundation in Delhi included a lavatory with a photovoltaic roof-top that powers a reactor breaking down excrements into fertiliser, and another one which came equipped with an automatic sterilisation system and a generator turning the moisture into water.
Apart from poverty and lack of lavatories, one of the reasons often cited to explain open defecation in India is the ingrained cultural norm making the practice socially accepted in some parts of the society.
"Just building toilets is not going to solve the problem, because open defecation is a practice acquired from the time you learn how to walk. When you grow up in an environment where everyone does it, even if later in life you have access to proper sanitation, you will revert back to it," says Sue Coates, chief of Wash (water, sanitation and hygiene) at Unicef.
India will be free of open defecation only when “every Indian household, every village, every part of Indian society will accept the need to use toilets and commit to do so”, she says.
Professor at the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology Meera Mehta says the strategies implemented so far may not have the expected impact because of a “lack of focus”.
"With the right policies and political attention, India can be free from open defecation within 10 years.
(From BBC News)
"Go to the mango trees, the body of your daughter is there"
Help us crowdsource rape laws around the world
Two teenage girls have been gang-raped and killed after doing what half a billion women and girls are forced to do every day – go outdoors to try to find somewhere discreet to go to the toilet.
A toilet, bathroom, powder room – whatever you want to call it – at home, at school, at work, in the shopping mall, is something many of us take for granted and cannot talk about without feeling embarrassed. But we must: because the lack of toilets is costing women their lives.
Today, 2.5 billion people live without access to a toilet, forcing women to walk to dark and dangerous places to find the privacy they need – those same dark and dangerous places where men wait to attack them.
So we must stop blushing when we talk about open defecation because it is not something to be embarrassed about: it is something to be angry about.
(From The Guardian)
By Betsy Teutsch (The Atlantic)
My husband and I have five bathrooms in our house, 2.5 per occupant. Inhabitants of the world’s sprawling shantytowns and slums typically share latrines with several hundred people—and often have to pay for the privilege. In many places, the absence of affordable, safe sanitation results in residents of informal settlements constantly suffering from waterborne illnesses; these diseases frequently kill young children.
David Kuria, a former Kenyan career NGO professional, saw opportunity in this sanitation crisis. He spent a few years developing and launching Iko-Toilet centers which offer clean, safe, attractive, reasonably-priced eco-san (short for ecological sanitation) toilets and anchor a host of neighborhood services.
Industrialized world plumbing flushes waste away, though arguably there is no “away.” A great deal of clean water, chemicals, and fossil-fuel energy are consumed to accomplish this method, developed in the 19th century. Eco-san approaches waste as an asset, seeking to kill its inherent pathogens while reclaiming its nutrients and energy.
The underground technology featured in each Iko-Toilet complex is a biodigester, a sealed chamber where waste decomposes anaerobically, without oxygen. The process produces methane gas—which can be sold as fuel or used for heating water for co-located hot showers—and organic fertilizer.
(From The Atlantic)
(Reuters) - (Note: Strong language in the second paragraph)
One billion people worldwide still practice “open defecation” and they need to be told that this leads to the spread of fatal diseases, U.N. experts said on Thursday at the…
It’s time to say thank you to your loo