Updated: Nov 22, 2021
It was the worst day of my seven-year-old life. On the first day of class in Grade One in Japan, I couldn’t find the toilet. Just back from three years in New York City, the signs that hung over the three doors, お手洗い 事務室 and 校長室 all looked the same to me. Desperate to wee, I opened the first door, which to my horror was the principal’s office, 校長室 and not the bathroom お手洗い. Luckily for me, toilet-gate was an even greater horror for my mother who, having heard about my inability to find the toilet directly from the principal, fixed my problem in a weekend of intense kanji character-drilling.
There are 3.6 billion people in the world who aren’t as lucky as I was. They have the worst day of their life every day because there aren't any toilets to find. The lack of toilet facilities leads to contaminated waters which means that there are 2 billion people drinking water soiled by feces on a daily basis. 700 children under the age of five are dying every day before they even have the chance to go to school let alone misread a sign.
November 19th is #WorldToiletDay, a day to mark our appreciation of the availability of toilets (and to a lesser extent, the availability of toilet paper) but also to increase our awareness of toilet insufficiency in some parts of our planet earth. Research shows that a mere investment of $1 saves $5 in medical costs from treating patients with disease from poor sanitation. Toilet availability impacts us all. You can read more about valuing toilets and what is being done to provide adequate sanitation facilities for all by 2030, WHO’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene WASH program, or join the discussion about why we should care about #WorldToiletDay.