We Can’t Wait for Equality and Dignity

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November 19, 2014

I’d been in a rattling minivan hurtling over bumpy roads for about an hour. Any mother of multiple children will know what that does to your bladder. Ahem. I was in desperate need of a bathroom. When we arrived at the health clinic, one of the better regional facilities in Mozambique, I immediately enlisted our hosts in locating a toilet. A couple of us in the same predicament headed off to find the sole toilet available for the more than two hundred patients already waiting under shade for their appointments.

WeCantWaitAs I opened the door I was assailed with the smell and sight of excrement covering the entire floor. The open pit toilet was overflowing and there was nowhere to stand, let alone anything else.

When the UN Secretary-General called for an end to open defecation this year, I didn’t realize that 1 billion people practice open defecation. Now I do. Why is this shocking number the case? Because there’s nowhere else to go. There are a variety of complex infrastructure and other causes of this, all of which especially affect women and girls.

Lack of clean toilets contributes to the spread of diseases and high death rates of children under five from things like diarrhea. When there is nowhere private to go, it makes it harder and less safe for girls to go to school. They drop out once they start their periods. However open defecation and poor sanitation are still not receiving the attention and response they deserve.

The aim of the “End Open Defecation” campaign is to support existing efforts by challenging us to break the silence. It’s not an easy thing. But neither is having no toilet.

Take Action Challenge

Check out what Sesame Street character Raya is doing to help kids around the world learn about this issue.

Then share one of these messages or one of your own on social media:

19 Nov is #WorldToiletDay. #WeCantWait – toilets save lives. Learn more: www.unwater.org/worldtoiletday

Clean & safe #toilets4all save lives! 2.5bn people lack access to adequate #sanitation: www.unwater.org/worldtoiletday #WorldToiletDay

Check out www.opendefecation.org and learn more about this issue and small ways you can learn more to help end the silence.

Chrysula Winegar was in Mozambique as an International Reporting Project (IRP) Fellow

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