Let’s talk toilets!

By Hope Randall

November 16, 2017

Diarrheal disease continues to be a burden for children, families, and communities, and it’s a crisis we can solve.

In April 2009 (can’t believe it was eight years ago!), my first task as a newly minted member of PATH’s Poo Crew was to help finalize and launch our team’s first-ever state of the field report on diarrhea: Diarrheal Disease: Solutions to Defeat a Global Killer. In those pages, we called for interventions to move the needle against diarrhea for children everywhere: the introduction of rotavirus vaccines, integration of diarrhea prevention and treatment, and more concerted effort on safe drinking water and sanitation.   

As we’d hoped, so much content in those pages is outdated thanks to global progress:

  • In 2010, the World Health Organization issued its recommendation for all countries to introduce rotavirus vaccines into their national immunization programs, a key step for vaccine procurement through structures like UNICEF and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. Today, rotavirus vaccine is a public health success story, introduced in more than 80 countries, setting an example for new vaccines against other leading causes of diarrhea that are coming down the pike.
  • Our call for integration – that is, combining different health interventions under one program – is picking up steam. This is important because diseases like pneumonia and diarrhea share many risk factors and solutions. In 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF created a road map for program integration, Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhoea (GAPPD), which marked the first-ever strategy to simultaneously tackle both diseases.
  • Since that time, the world achieved the Millennium Development Goal on safe drinking water. The United States passed the Water for the World Act to strengthen our leadership on this issue. National governments are increasingly focusing on these issues; India is one example.


New challenges, new report

While these successes shine a light on where we’ve been, they also highlight the work we have yet to do. Because although fewer children are dying from diarrhea, it would be unfair to say that those children who survive are guaranteed healthy lives. We’re learning that diarrhea, especially the long-term damage from repeated infections, can cause its own silent crisis.

Still, we feel just as strongly as we did in 2009 that there is so much more we can accomplish together.

This year, just in time for World Toilet Day, we are excited to share with you our second state of the field report, Stop the Cycle of Diarrheal Disease. Starting on November 9 we are unveiling the report, chapter by chapter, with a full release on November 17. The report will provide advocates like you with the data you need to help spread the message that our work isn’t over. Diarrheal disease continues to be a burden for children, families, and communities, and it’s a crisis we can solve.

Take Action Challenge

Help us make a stink.

In 2009, we issued a Call to Action. But it’s 2017, and that calls for updated tactics. This time, the stall’s the limit.

Now through World Toilet Day (November 19), help us celebrate progress – and call for continued investments – by using the hashtag #DefeatDD to share your own Toilet Talk! (Think TED Talk. But much shorter. And in a bathroom.) A bathroom is a silly and surprising backdrop, which we think will put the serious issue of diarrheal disease in the spotlight, spark conversation, and inspire action. Check out our running roll of Toilet Talks featuring participants like Raya the muppet and Orin Levine, Director at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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