World Toilet Day marked in UN

UNITED NATION:   (Xinhua) — The United Nations on Friday highlighted the impact of sanitation on the lives of peoples across the world as the world body is observing World Toilet Day and seeks to raise awareness to address the global sanitation crisis, a topic often neglected and shrouded in taboos.

In his message, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that this year’s World Toilet Day focuses on “toilets and jobs,” spotlighting the impact of the lack of sanitation on livelihoods and work environments.

Activities promoting this goal are taking place around the world, including at the Global Citizen Festival on Saturday in Mumbai, India, Farhan Haq, the deputy UN spokesman, told reporters here Friday.

On Monday, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson will deliver a keynote address at the official World Toilet Day event at UNICEF House here in New York, the seat of the head office of the UN Children’s Fund.

World Toilet Day, which falls on Nov. 19, is also designed to tackle the oft-neglected global sanitation crisis.

While the Day is an opportunity to raise awareness about the 2.4 billion people around the world who live without a toilet and the rates of diseases due to inadequate access to sanitation and unsafe water, this year’s theme focuses on how lack of sanitation impacts peoples’ livelihoods: the UN estimates that in many countries, it creates a five percent loss in gross domestic product (GDP).

“Toilets play a crucial role in creating a strong economy,” Ban said in his message. “A lack of toilets at work and at home has severe consequences, including poor health leading to absenteeism, reduced concentration, exhaustion, and decreased productivity.”

Meanwhile, 17 percent of workplace deaths are caused by disease transmission — an incentive to invest in access to proper sanitation in order to avoid the approximately 260 billion U.S. dollars that is lost every year due to poor sanitation and unsafe water.

According to the secretary-general, “every dollar invested in water and sanitation leads to four dollars in economic returns.”

“Investing in appropriate toilets is especially important for women and girls, so that they have private, clean and safe facilities, and are able to manage menstruation or pregnancy safely,” Ban said.

Safe access to clean toilets is critical to implementing Goal 6 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which calls for clean water and sanitation for all.

“Delivering on this basic human right is good for people, business, and the economy. Let us continue working towards a world where everyone, everywhere, has adequate and equitable sanitation,” the secretary-general added.

In 2013, the UN General Assembly officially designated Nov. 19 as World Toilet Day.