Social Issues

It’s World Toilet Day – Yes, That’s a Real Thing

What have toilets got to do with climate change? World Toilet Day 2020

I love a good toilet joke, but this actually isn’t one.  UN-Water’s World Toilet Day is observed every November 19, and is an initiative of the United Nations agency that deals with sanitation.

World Toilet Day 2019

The theme for 2019 is leaving no one behind, which speaks to the 4.2 billion people worldwide who don’t have access to safe sanitation.

The numbers are astonishing.  Open defecation is practiced by 673 million people, with India being a major area where this happens.  Three billion don’t have access to proper handwashing facilities.  An estimated 432,000 people die each year because of diarrhea caused by poor sanitation.  At least 2 billion people access drinking water that has fecal contamination.

Refugees are particularly likely to not have access to safe facilities.  Women’s safety may be compromised by needing to go out alone at night to use the (non-existent) toilet, and they risk being sexually harassed or assaulted.  A lack of sanitary facilities at schools (which is the case in 1/3 of the world’s primary schools) can mean menstruating girls stay home from school.  Children are at particularly high risk of diarrhea-related illnesses or death.

World Toilet Day poster: This is not just a toilet, it's a life-saver

UNICEF points out that poor sanitation affects not only health, but also dignity, wellbeing, the environment, and socioeconomic development.

It’s so easy to take for granted what’s available to us in privileged parts of the world.  Over the years as I’ve travelled I’ve grumbled about some iffy toilet facilities I came across, but at least there were facilities.

World Toilet Day was first established in 2001 by the World Toilet Organization, and it was adopted by the United Nations in 2013.  This is the first year I’ve heard of it, and I had no idea how big the problem is.

Our brothers and sisters in poorer parts of the world deserve better than this.  Everyone deserves a toilet and clean water, and if that’s not happening, it’s on all of us to address this social inequality.  While speaking up about it may not change much, at least it’s a start.

World Toilet Day 2020

The theme for World Toilet Day 2020 is climate change. It’s been observed by the United Nations since 2013 in recognition of the importance of sanitation in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

What’s the connection, you might wonder? Climate change means increased extreme weather events, which can produce flooding and drought. Climate change also contributes to rising sea levels. These factors can overwhelm sanitation systems, leading to the release of raw sewage. This can have dire public health consequences, and spread diseases including cholera, typhoid, and COVID-19.

So, if the environment and climate change weren’t important enough already, this is one more reason to take action to reduce your carbon footprint. The David Suzuki Foundation has a few simple tips on how you can do that.

You can find out more about World Toilet Day at

Social justice and equality

The Social Justice & Equality page has info and resources on a wide variety of social issues.

Visit the MH@H Resource Pages hub to see other themed pages on MH@H.

31 thoughts on “It’s World Toilet Day – Yes, That’s a Real Thing”

  1. A great post on very important topics to wellbeing and life on this planet. Thank you!
    Sharing it on Pinterest.👍
    Have a beautiful day. We are digging out from a third snowstorm…hope your weather is less dramatic and as beautiful.❄❄❄❄❄❄❄❄❄❤❄😊

  2. Apart from the climate’s impact on sanitation systems, I hope for the era where everyone will have access to toilets at home in order to put an end to open defecation. That also has bad effects on the environment.

  3. In honor of World Toilet Day, the U.S. is going to start hoarding TP again? Because based on my grocery run today, we get the bizarre world of supply shortages again. But, everyone is still going home for Thanksgiving, and no new lockdown. Maybe I’ll just tell myself we’re ahead of the curve on celebrating a new holiday. Not behind it on literally everything else public health right now!

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