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. ‘Toilets for Health’, a white paper by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Domestos, gives new insights in the sanitation crisis.
The report 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.
Sanitation is often described as, ‘the Last Taboo’. To reach the Millennium 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.
Everyone can help to break the Taboo of the Loo
In addition, to further raise awareness amongst consumers, Domestos has commissioned "The Public Toilet", a 4.5m high interactive statue which will be installed for five days around World Toilet Day, next to the iconic Tower Bridge landmark in London. Everyone will be able to upload a short video of their face via www.thepublictoilet.com, which will be broadcast onto the face of the statue. This activity aims to highlight the indignity faced by 1.1 billion people around the world who are forced to practice open defecation, the sanitation practice that poses the greatest threat to health.
Working with others to achieve the MDGs
To make a step change to try to solve the global sanitation crisis, Unilever is working with others to create innovative and sustainable solutions. Some examples were announced today. Unilever's commitment to sanitation is also demonstrated through the Unilever Foundation and Domestos' support of UNICEF's Community Approaches to Total Sanitation programme. In this first year of this partnership, UNICEF will result in an estimated 400,000 people living in open defecation free communities across nine countries: Gambia, Ghana, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, South Sudan, Sudan and Vietnam.
In September this year, Unilever joined the UN's Every Woman Every Child campaign to save the lives of women and children across the world through tackling deadly diseases such as diarrhoea. All these partnerships are focused to achieve the Millennium Development Goal on sanitation set by United Nations.
Chris Williams, the Executive Director of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, operating within the United Nations system, says: "World Toilet Day is the perfect occasion to see toilets in a new light: as a motor for economic development. Studies show that each dollar invested in sanitation generates good return. This investment potential is lost, however, on the one in three people in the world who dream of what the rest of us take for granted: a clean toilet. For countries, and individuals, sanitation is one of the best investments to be made."
This blog was originally posted here.