The first time I saw open defecation was in a slum in Delhi. I was taken aback. I had always heard about open defecation, but until that point I had never seen it and couldn’t imagine it happening in an overly crowded urban area. It was also at that moment that I knew I had to learn as much as possible about the ways in which people use the bathroom, if they have one at all.
2.5 billion people lack improved sanitation and 1 billion people do not have access to a bathroom and must resort to the undignified practice of open defecation. There are 7 billion people on the planet.
Women who must defecate in the open and who also have to use the community toilets are at increased risk of violence and rape.
When I visit communities and families in low-income countries I always look for toilets and latrines to see the conditions in which people relieve themselves. Below are some photos of toilets I took in India, Ethiopia, Philippines, and South Africa.
Jennifer James is the founder of Social Good Moms, a blog about pressing global issues. She has written over 70 articles for the Gates Foundation and has written about women's and girls' issues for ELLE and Cosmo South Africa and Huffington Post's Impact. She has been named a Fast Company Most Generous Social Media Maven, a Nesta Mother of Innovation (UK), and a ONE.org social media gamechanger. She is a recipient of two International Reporting Project fellowships to Zambia and Tanzania and a National Press Foundation Vaccine Fellowship.
James has reported about global health from Haiti, Brazil, Nepal, Ethiopia, India, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, the Philippines, and Zambia. You can contact Jennifer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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8 thoughts on “Photos: Why World Toilet Day Matters”
These were somewhat common in rural areas in the US 1-2 generations ago. I didn’t know that there were so many people still using unsanitary facilities to clean up and defecate. Interesting read.
I didn’t think so many people had such poor access to something that we take for granted every day.
Yes. Billions of people either don’t have access to a toilet or don’t have improved sanitation.
Wow – really makes me appreciate the life I have, sometimes complain about, and take for granted.
It’s sobering to say the least!
Such an important topic, thanks for the reminder.
You’re welcome! Thanks for reading.
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When I think about it, 1 billion is a lot of people who must endure these unsanitary and potentially dangerous conditions. I don’t think I’ll take the toilet for granted again.