November 19 is observed as World Toilet Day. It is estimated that 2.5 billion people around the world do not have proper sanitation, that 1.1 billion people defecate in the open and that providing toilets could save the lives of more than 200,000 children each year. Sanitation is a global development priority. Diarrhoea, caused by poor sanitation and unsafe water, kills 315,000 children every year. Open defecation, unlike in other places around the world (where it has a negative connotation), is something that is completely normal in these parts, and even sometimes considered wholesome, like the fact that you have gone for a morning walk, and you have exercised your body and you have gotten up early. Lack of access to toilets has been identified as a huge problem, particularly in rural areas. It not only spreads diseases like diarrhea but also exposes women to the risk of sexual assault when they go into the fields to defecate after dark. Cultural norms are hard to change and according to some, open-air defecation is seen as more sanitary by those who prefer to relieve themselves in the open rather than share a toilet. Toilets play a crucial role in creating a strong economy, as well as improving health and protecting people’s safety and dignity, particularly women’s and girls’.
VINOD C. DIXIT