For the overwhelming majority of the developed world, a clean and functioning toilet is something we take for granted and perhaps don’t even think to question.
But for 2.5 billion people across the developing world – that’s almost one third of the global population – having no access to even the most basic sanitation is a reality faced every day.
Of these, 1.1 billion are forced to suffer the indignity of practising open defecation – the riskiest sanitation practice of all.
The United Nations has declared access to sanitation a basic human right, yet almost a third of the world’s population suffer from a lack of access to improved sanitation.
Unilever, under its Sustainable Living Plan, has committed to helping more than one billion people take action to improve their health and well-being.
To coincide with World Toilet Day (19 November), the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Domestos, published a white paper:
‘Toilets for Health’
that highlights how improved sanitation could greatly reduce diseases such as diarrhoea, which results in at least 1.1 million deaths of children under five every year.
Also, the report provides an overview of the main diseases linked to poor sanitation which include cholera, typhoid, hepatitis A&E and many parasitic diseases.
The paper revealed:
– Improved sanitation & handwashing facilities have a particularly positive impact on the education opportunities for young girls.
– Up to 443 million school days are lost every year due to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) related diseases.
– Diarrhoea causes under nutrition, it also reduces a child’s resistance to subsequent infections creating a vicious circle of malnutrition & infection.
Every year, 6.9 million children die before they reach their fifth birthday.
A third of these deaths are caused by diarrhoeal disease and pneumonia – both can be significantly reduced through improving access to sanitation and promoting handwashing with soap.
The World Health Organisation estimates a rate of return of $3 to 34 for each $1 invested in water and sanitation, depending on the context and system adopted.
However, investment in water, sanitation and hygiene in developing countries is minimal compared to other sectors of public spending, and the share of investment going to water, sanitation and hygiene has actually fallen over the last 15 years.
Sanitation is often described as ‘the Last Taboo’
Unilever hopes that raising awareness of the issue through World Toilet Day will go some way to breaking this taboo.
To reach the Millenium Development Goal (MDG) on sanitation in 2015, more than 120 million people will need to gain access to improved sanitation every year between now and then.
One of the key reasons why the MDG for sanitation is lagging furthest behind is the relative reluctance to talk about it.
Sean Gogarty, Senior Vice President Household Care Unilever said:
“By consolidating the knowledge available about improvements that can be made to people’s lives by the simple use provision of a clean, safe toilet, real action can be driven to help address this crisis.”
“Domestos is Unilever’s leading toilet hygiene brand, and has been committed to helping protect families from germs for more than 80 years.
As such, the brand is uniquely positioned to address the sanitation crisis.
That is why we’re working with global partners to plan sustainable sanitation strategies that will make a significant difference to the lives of millions of people around the world.”
“Finding sanitation solutions that solve these problems is one of the most complex issues in the world today and one that we at Unilever are committed to helping solve.
Finding the solution will require collaborative working, bringing together the best brains in public health, science, engineering, business and communications.”
Without toilets, untreated human waste can have significant consequences for whole communities, affecting many aspects of daily life and ultimately posing a serious risk to health.
It is reported that every year more children die from diarrhoea-related disease than from HIV, malaria and tuberculosis combined.
This situation could be solved simply by providing improved water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.
First Domestos Toilet Academy opened in Việt Nam
Unilever is also pioneering an innovative approach to the provision of sanitation, through its continued partnership with the World Toilet Organization, to launch the world’s first First Domestos Toilet Academy in Việt Nam.
This academy will provide the business skills and training necessary for local entrepreneurs to source and supply latrines to their local communities – providing jobs and a boost to the economy, and at the same time promoting the importance of safe and hygienic sanitation.
The Toilet Academy programme aims to be a sustainable and long-term solution to sanitation that benefits local society and helps stimulate local economy.
Dr Nguyễn Thị Kim Tiến, Minister of Health Việt Nam said:
“Currently, many countries, including Việt Nam, are still facing lots of difficulties and challenges.
Challenges of globalization as well as environmental pollution, population growth and urbanization have impacted the sanitation crisis.
In Việt Nam, the Government has put strong emphasis on stimulating and promoting the “Patriotic Hygiene Movement” to mobilize all management agencies, organizations at all levels and entire nation to join hands in improving hygiene and sanitation as this is essential in the current context.”
“The active participation of businesses like Unilever, helping improve health and hygiene for communities is greatly appreciated and widely acknowledged.
The launch of the Toilet Academy clearly demonstrates Unilever’s enormous effort and will positively contribute to improve sanitary conditions for Vietnamese people.”
Source: The Guardian / Unilever
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