Monday 19 November is World Toilet Day, perhaps an odd day to have in the calendar but one that highlights the critical human need of access to safe sanitation. 

Toilets are something all too often taken for granted by the wealthy but for 2.5 billion people – that’s one third of everyone in the world - toilets are a luxury. Yet access to basic sanitation is a human right.

The right to safe water and sanitation was officially recognised as a human right by the UN in 2010. Together water and sanitation play a vital part in allowing people to lead hygienic and dignified lives. Without clean water and adequate sanitation, diarrhoea and other water related diseases can spread easily.  According to the World Health Organisation 2000 children die every day from unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation. This is unacceptable.

Many of the world’s poor and marginalised people live in rural areas, or those vulnerable to extreme weather conditions, and they often lack proper sanitation and water facilities, making them much more susceptible to diseases. 

Women and girls often have to walk long distances to collect clean water, meaning that they miss out on school or earning a living.  One in three women do not have access to a safe place to go to the toilet, leaving them vulnerable to harassment and sometimes even attack. Improved access to a clean water source and sanitation will therefore help to meet a number of people’s basic needs and human rights.

In Zimbabwe, Progressio’s partners are building pumps near their community gardens and separate male and female toilets from money the group has saved collectively.

Progressio ICS volunteers are teaching children in Malawi about the importance of sanitation and hygiene. 

Having somewhere private and safe to go to the toilet, where the waste is washed away, can really be the difference between life and death for billions of people worldwide. 

In many parts of the world, the absence of adequate sanitation has led to the widespread pollution of water sources that communities rely on for survival. By signing the online petition by World Toilet Day you can support the call for governments to fulfil their promises to increase the number of taps and toilets and to make these issues a top priority in the years ahead.

Photo shows Esla Batira and Enforce Dangarembizi in Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe, demonstrating how the new well and water pump works