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Celebrities across South Africa are calling on the government to end the pit toilets that have claimed the lives of children across the country.

It comes as the world marks World Toilet Day, launched by the United Nations (UN) in support of the global effort to ensure that everyone has access to safe, clean toilet facilities.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), some 4.5 billion people around the world don’t have access to basic sanitation facilities. Meanwhile, some 892 million people still defecate in the open — putting both people’s health and the environment at risk.

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South Africa’s Department of Water and Sanitation, together with the Department of Basic Education have been blamed for the deaths of children as a result of the pit toilets system still present in schools across the country.

High-profile cases have drawn public attention to the ongoing issue. Michael Komape, 6, died after falling into a pit toilet at his school back in 2014; and another child, Lumka Mketwa, 5, also died after falling into one of the toilets earlier this year.

The Department of Water and Sanitation has said it acknowledges that pit toilets haven’t been fully eradicated — but it has pledged that they will be by the UN target of 2030.

Now, Section 2, a public interest law centre seeking to achieve social justice in South Africa, has been calling for the government to prioritise delivering safe toilet facilities in schools.

And celebrities are lending their voices to the effort.

TV broadcaster Chanté Siyamthanda Jantjies tweeted: “South African children have the right to basic water and sanitation facilities, at a place they consider safe. NO MORE PIT TOILET DEATHS AT SCHOOLS.”

And she’s been joined by radio personality and entrepreneur Anele Mdoda, and radio and TV producer Claire Mawisa, who spoke about their personal experiences at the Flush Forum, hosted in Johannesburg on Monday.

The forum is being held as an idea-sharing space, to come up with innovative solutions to put an end to the sanitation crisis that affects so many South African learners.

Speaking at the event, Mdoda announced a crowdfunding campaign — a joint effort with the #947BreakfastClub and Domestos — aiming  to raise R1.1 million in support of improving sanitation in schools

“I am so happy to say it’s not even 12 [p.m.] and we have raised R700 000,” she said. "I want those toilets done by the time they go back to school in 2019.”

Meanwhile, Mawisa said that in the Eastern Cape alone, 197 schools have no water and 53 have no proper toilet facilities.

Former public protector Thuli Madonsela, when asked on Twitter what would happen if citizens could sponsor a toilet, she tweeted and said that is possible.

“It is possible,” she said. “If we co-solve the toilet problem, it could be solved in three months.”

The Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 is presented and hosted by The Motsepe Foundation, with major partners House of Mandela, Johnson & Johnson, Cisco, Nedbank, Vodacom, Coca Cola Africa, Big Concerts, BMGF Goalkeepers, Eldridge Industries, and associate partners HP and Microsoft.


Defeat Poverty

South African Celebrities Call on Government to End Pit Toilets

By Thato Mahlangu