The Importance of World Toilet Day 2015

world_toilet_day_2015A toilet is a necessary item we all use multiple times a day, and something we typically choose not to discuss. After all, who wants to talk about toilets — and why we need them. But that’s just what World Toilet Day aims to change.

percentages without toiletsOn November 19, 2001, former construction industry executive Jack Sims founded the World Toilet Organization, and the inaugural World Toilet Summit was held in Singapore. Every year since then, we have celebrated World Toilet Day in an effort to bring awareness of the global santitation crisis, and to eliminate the taboo surrounding the subject of toilets and sanitation. Since its inception, World Toilet Day has gained the notice and support of many organizations in the private sector, civil society, and the international community, and was officially recognized by the United Nations in 2013.

Prior to the inception of World Toilet Day, the less than glamorous subject of sanitation received very little attention, and was therefore rarely prioritized on global development agenda. World Toilet Day aims to educate the international community on the risks associated with lack of sanitation as well as the urgency of implementing global sanitation. With that in mind, let’s look at some global sanitation statistics.

Global Sanitation Fast Facts

  • more people have cell phone than toilet1 in 3 people — 2.5 billion of the world’s total population — lacks access to a clean and safe toilet
  • 1 billion people practice open defecation
  • 90% of diarrhea cases are caused by feces-contaminated food or water
  • Diarrhea results in the deaths of more than 700,000 children under the age of five every year
  • About 2,000 young children die as a result of diarrhea every single day
  • Every $1 spent on sanitation brings $5.50 in return by keeping people healthy and productive
  • Economic losses from lack of access to sanitation amount to an estimated $260 billion annually, more than the entire gross domestic product of Chile
  • Feces are responsible for more than 50% of the nine million preventable child deaths each year
  • Toilets have added 20 years to the human lifespan over the past 200 years
  • If everyone had access to a toilet, the estimated annual gain in economic productivity would be $225 billion

Lack of sanitation not only produces staggering health and economic consequences, but also has serious social implications, particularly for women and girls. Women who lack access to safe, private sanitation facilities are exponentially more susceptible to harassment and violence, and many girls who reach the age of puberty drop out of school if their school lacks adequate sanitation facilities. In general, children lose approximately 272 million school days due to diarrhea each year, with girls losing even more school days due to their familial role as water-gatherers in developing countries.

What We Can Do

Matt Damon dons a (clean) toilet seat to spread awareness of the fact that the toilet is the single invention that has saved the most lives.
Matt Damon, co-founder of, dons a (clean) toilet seat to spread awareness of the fact that the invention that has saved the most lives in human history is the toilet.

Fortunately, the World Toilet Organization and World Toilet Day have brought the sanitation crisis into the global spotlight, attracting the support of several high-profile charitable organizations such as charity: water, Water For People, WaterAid, and, co-founded by Hollywood superstar and Massachusetts native Matt Damon. All of the above charities receive excellent ratings from Charity Navigator, with high percentages of their assets going directly to program expenses. In addition, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has made global sanitation a targeted focus of its charitable works, with the Foundation committing $370 million to water and sanitation issues as well as hosting the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge in an effort to bring safe — as well as sustainable — sanitation to the global community.

In Conclusion

Global sanitation and hygiene are of paramount importance to the health and safety of billions of people, and also to the health of the global economy and environment. While the subject of sanitation has become less taboo and has gained more exposure through World Toilet Day and various charitable organizations over the past 14 years, we still have a long way to go. We can start by spreading the word through social media, news outlets, and word of mouth, and by supporting the charities that work so hard to provide safe, private sanitation to the entire global community. Together we can help bring health, safety, and dignity to the 1 in 3 people who still lack access to a basic toilet.

Water For People – Making a Substantial and Sustainable Difference

wfpWater. For us, it’s as natural as breathing. When we want a drink, we run our faucet. To wash our dishes, or our clothing, we press a button. We always have access to restrooms, whether in a public facility or a private residence. Clean water and sanitation are rights, not privileges. But for millions of people outside our borders, life is very different:

  • 780 million people worldwide lack access to clean water. That’s 2.5x more people than live in the United States.
  • More than 3.4 million people die each year from water, sanitation, and hygiene-related causes. That is almost the entire city of Los Angeles. 99% of these deaths occur in developing nations.
  • Every 21 seconds, a child dies from a water-related illness. The majority of illness comes from fecal matter.
  • The water and sanitation crisis claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns.

Virtually all people in developed nations have access to clean water and sanitation. The areas of the world with the lowest percentage of people having access to clean water and improved sanitation are sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia. And to put those numbers into perspective

  • An American taking a five-minute shower uses more water than the average person in a developing country uses for an entire day.
  • More people have a mobile phone than a toilet.

These are sobering facts indeed.

At Tata & Howard, we firmly believe that every single person on Earth should have access to clean water and improved sanitation. And because of our strong conviction, we have chosen to support Water For People, a charitable organization that works diligently to bring improved water and sanitation facilities to developing countries. Their goal is water for Everyone Forever, and when they say everyone, they mean everyone. Their methodology is precise and comprehensive, and has brought real and lasting results.

everyone foreverHow They Do It:

  • Water For People collaborates with IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre, and Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) to target districts in defined geographic regions for an Everyone Forever program.
  • Success is defined as every household, every school, and every public health facility/clinic in those regions having access to improved water and sanitation services.
  • Financial, physical, and operational investments are made by local and national governments, community residents, and other organizations to address current and future challenges of water systems and services. Eventually, target communities won’t need support from an international water agency ever again.
  • Development agencies monitor field results for at least 10 years, but the monitoring capacity and responsibility are firmly embedded within communities and government. Data and results are publicly available to everyone.
  • Everyone Forever programming grows from full coverage at district levels to national level and beyond, freeing countries from water and sanitation aid dependency.
A woman in Mwamongu fetches water from an unimproved source.
A woman in Mwamongu fetches water from an unimproved source.

Water For People, the American Water Works Association’s (AWWA) charity of choice, will have a prominent presence at ACE14, the AWWA’s Annual Conference being held June 8-12 in Boston. They will host a booth, an evening fundraiser, an awards luncheon, and will give a presentation at a professional session. More information on Water For People at ACE14 can be found here.

Tata & Howard gives to Water For People through its workplace giving campaign by encouraging employees to donate through automatic payroll deduction which the company then matches dollar for dollar. We encourage you to learn more about Water For People and to visit their website where you can personally see the profound benefits that have come about as a result of their efforts: