If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that clean water, soap and adequate sanitation save lives.
While the importance of accessing soap and hot water has been thrust into the spotlight now more than ever by the COVID-19 pandemic, the significance of the other end of the sanitation spectrum continues to be overlooked.
Access to a decent toilet can prevent disease, reduce gender-based violence, and improve health and education outcomes for people living in extreme poverty. But, for 2 billion individuals, lack of access to basic sanitation facilities is a reality — while 673 million people are forced to defecate in the open, using everything from street gutters to bushes, bodies of water, and fields.
The World Toilet Day 2020 Virtual Event, hosted by Global Citizen’s Australian Digital Campaigner Madeleine Keck, featured messages from local and international changemakers, all working to ensure we achieve a world with safe toilets and sanitation for all.
Rosie Wheen, the chief executive of WaterAid Australia, told viewers why clean water, sanitation and access to toilets should be viewed as the first line of defence against infectious disease and a fundamental pillar to enable resilience to the effects of climate change.
"We have the goal for everyone, everywhere to have access to safe water, decent toilets and good hygiene. But our progress is disgracefully slow,” Wheen explained. “We know that with severe weather events like flooding, sanitation infrastructure is at risk. We need global robust sanitation infrastructure that can withstand climate events.”
Tyler Kozole, the innovation and partnerships manager at iDE Cambodia, spoke about the organisation's goal to reduce diarrheal disease by ensuring quality toilets are accessible and affordable to all. He also told attendees about some of the biggest barriers preventing sanitation improvements in Cambodia.
"In Cambodia, there is no literal translation of the word gender. So imagine the challenges you run into when we try to tackle gender-based taboos when we don't even have a word to describe the problem,” Kozole explained.
💥Happy #WorldToiletDay! 💥— Global Citizen Australia (@GlblCtznAU) November 19, 2020
We just had a wonderful virtual event discussing the importance of safe 🚽, clean 💧and adequate sanitation! HUGE THANK YOU to our incredible speakers @RosieWheen from @WaterAidAus, Tyler Kozole from @iDEorg Cambodia and Lynn Foden from @ThriveNet! 👏 pic.twitter.com/kEfOorfCwJ
Lynn Foden, the CEO at Thrive Networks, meanwhile, spoke about the international non-profit’s work pioneering evidence-based water, sanitation and hygiene programs throughout Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.
The Australian government, which helps fund Thrive Networks, has incredible power and does a lot of good, Foden explained, before calling on Australian leaders to increase aid spending for sanitation projects.