Every year on November 19, the world celebrates World Toilet Day, a day to raise awareness and inspire action to tackle the global sanitation crisis. According to the United Nations, 3.5 billion people live without safe toilets and 2.2 billion people lack safe drinking water. These conditions pose serious threats to public health, human dignity, and environmental sustainability. World Toilet Day exists to inform, engage, and motivate people to take personal and collective actions to improve toilets and sanitation systems for everyone, everywhere.
World Toilet Day was unofficially established in 2001 by the World Toilet Organization, a Singapore-based NGO that aims to promote sanitation and hygiene for all. In 2013, Singapore tabled a resolution at the UN General Assembly to officially designate November 19 as World Toilet Day, which was unanimously adopted by 193 member states. Since then, UN-Water, the UN’s inter-agency coordination mechanism for water and sanitation issues, has been the official convener of World Toilet Day, choosing a special theme for each year and maintaining the official website.
World Toilet Day is significant because it highlights the urgent need to address the global sanitation crisis, which affects billions of people, especially the poorest and most marginalized. Access to safe toilets and water is a human right and a prerequisite for achieving many other Sustainable Development Goals, such as health, education, gender equality, and climate action. Without safe toilets and water, people are exposed to deadly diseases, malnutrition, violence, and lost opportunities. World Toilet Day calls for everyone to join the efforts to end open defecation, provide access to sanitation and hygiene, and ensure the safe management of excreta.
World Toilet Day is celebrated by various activities and events around the world, organized by UN entities, international organizations, local civil society organizations, and volunteers. Some examples of World Toilet Day celebrations are:
- The Clean Toilet Challenge, a massive drive to clean and maintain nearly 1.5 lakh community and public toilets across urban areas in India, launched by the Urban Affairs Minister on the eve of World Toilet Day 2023.
- The Urgent Run, a global run to raise awareness and funds for sanitation projects, initiated by the World Toilet Organization and held in various countries such as Germany, Senegal, and Pakistan.
- The Hummingbird Art Movement, a global art project to create origami hummingbird nests and share them on social media, inspired by the World Toilet Day 2023 theme of ‘Accelerating Change’ and the hummingbird symbol of the campaign.
Some important facts to know about World Toilet Day 2023 are:
- The theme of World Toilet Day 2023 is ‘Accelerating Change’, using the hummingbird as a symbol of inspiration to take simple actions to help speed up progress towards achieving safe toilets and water for all by 2030.
- The world is seriously off track to meet the sanitation target of SDG 6, which aims to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. At the current rate, 3 billion people will still be living without safe toilets, 2 billion without safe drinking water, and 1.4 billion without basic hygiene facilities by 2030.
- Unsafe water, sanitation, and hygiene are responsible for the deaths of around 1,000 children under five every day.
- Sanitation and drinking water are human rights, and access to these services is critical to people’s health and the integrity of the environment. World Toilet Day asks people to ‘be like a hummingbird’ and take personal and collective actions to help accelerate change.
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