Saturday 19 November 2011 is World Toilet Day.
It’s an initiative of the World Toilet Organisation
to raise global awareness of the struggle that 2.6 billion people face every day because they don’t have something we all take for granted: access to proper, clean sanitation.
At World Vision we are acutely aware of the suffering that children and their families endure because of diarrhoea and other water-related diseases that can be easily prevented when poor communities gain access to clean water, basic toilets and hygiene education.
Earlier this year our 40 Hour Famine Youth Ambassadors travelled to East Timor and got to see firsthand the difference that something as simple as a toilet can make for children in need.
Youth Ambassador Will Menzies from South Australia reflected on this experience in a blog he wrote after coming home from East Timor… This week I’ve had a cold so I decided to get some medicine.
After deciding which of my town’s three chemists to go to, I went for a two minute drive to the pharmacy. (I know, I know. But it was drizzling and I was sick, ok?) Anyway, I had a chat with the pharmacist and went home with about four different products.
In Australia if you get sick, you go see a doctor, take some medicine and you get better. Everyday illness is a minor inconvenience. It got me thinking about my time in East Timor.
We Youth Ambassadors had just finished helping the locals build the walls of a new toilet and some hand washing stations (the kind most of us having been talking about in blogs and video blogs lately) in a remote community.
We were told the people, like many in Timor, used to defecate in the animal pen for the pigs to eat. That was, until World Vision came along and told the community how practices like this cause diarrhoea and other diseases. Diarrhoea is the leading cause of death in East Timorese kids.
It’s mind boggling. Stupid, even. Diarrhoea is so easily treated with just water and cheap minerals, yet it kills so many children.
Why? Imagine you’re a mum who doesn’t know how to treat your daughter’s diarrhoea. Logic tells you “if I stop giving my daughter water, the diarrhoea will stop and she will get better”. 24-48 hours later, your baby is dead in your arms from dehydration. Tragic. Gut-wrenching. Totally preventable.
Ok. Let’s rewind a few months. How can we help you save your child?
Education is a big part of the solution.
As soon as the community we visited realised the link between toilets and tummies they began working on ways to improve their own sanitation. They dug their own sanitary toilets, began washing their hands and started bragging to the other villages about how their hygiene was making life better for their children. This kind of community-led sanitation saves lives.
On top of that, Government and World Vision Travelling Health Clinics educate parents on health: how to best look after their children and treat diseases like diarrhoea. This knowledge is vital when the nearest hospital is on the other side of the country. Man, now I really feel like a pansy for driving to the chemist.
The 40 Hour Famine means fewer kids getting sick and fewer sick kids dying
of silly causes like diarrhoea.