How World Toilet Day is a Housing Issue

November 19, 2012

By Dan Petrie: Associate Director of Congressional Relations, Habitat for Humanity International

It seems most of the clever puns about World Toilet Day have been taken. Call of doodie? An inconvenient poop? Who gives a crap?

Jokes aside, the reality is one in three people in the world don't have a toilet.  Many are forced to handle their business in the open, exacerbating disease and risking personal safety. Nearly three quarters of the world's population who must defecate outside come from just 12 countries including India, China, Ethiopia and Sudan. A simple toilet can serve as a basis for healthier, more dignified living and greater equality between men and women. It can also serve as a catalyst for broader social and economic development.

Think this isn't a housing issue? Adequate housing is defined, in part, by access to basic services like water and sanitation. With slums expected to double in size over the next two decades, sanitation solutions will be intrinsically linked to a decent, safe and affordable place to live.  Given this, Habitat for Humanity has prioritized health related investments in water and sanitation including infrastructure like taps, latrines and septic systems as well as training and technical assistance on resource management, maintenance and hygienic practices. Sanitation is not a sexy topic, but until more people are aware of this global issue and can discuss these challenges openly, progress will be limited.


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