Facts on ground show that over five billion people around the globe lack safe toilet sanitation, with over 800 children under the age of five die every day from diarrhea diseases due to poor toiletry hygiene, poor sanitation or unsafe drinking water.
This evidence necessitated the United Nations to inaugurate ‘World Toilet’ summit on 19 November 2001 so as to raise awareness of the 4.2 billion people living without access to safely managed sanitation. It is about taking action to tackle the global sanitation crisis and achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030.
As it is, this year, the summit was themed ‘Sustainable sanitation and climate change’ this became necessary for the fact that climate change is fast accelerating, a lot of hazards are threatening sanitation systems – from toilets to septic tanks to treatment plants. Floodwater can contaminate wells used for drinking water or flooding might damage toilets and spread human waste into communities and food crops, causing deadly and chronic diseases.
Living without a toilet endangers the health and livelihoods of the world’s most vulnerable people – and the risk of living without proper sanitation increases as climate change bites, according to WaterAid, an international not-for-profit.
At the global scene, it is essential to understand that there are vital points about sanitation by observing regular washing of our hands, which is one of the most important habits adopted in sustainable sanitation as well as prevention of the Covid-19 spread, which causes the disease to so many other people. We don’t need to be told that germs are quickly spread when we don’t wash our hands as at when due regularly with soap and clean water.
Hand-washing with soap and water, according to health experts can prevent 1 in 3 people from getting sick with diarrhea and 1 in 5 people from getting a respiratory illness. That is why hand-washing is so important, especially at key times such as after using the bathroom, when preparing food, before eating, and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
The habits of hand-washing, if adopted, can play an important role in developing body and environmental hygiene to thwart all hazards associated with the negative health effects we see every day. Global warming is envisaged to have a strong and adverse impact on human health more than any other pollution. The populations of countries that have contributed the least to global warming are the most vulnerable to death and diseases brought about by higher temperatures. The scourge worsens human health conditions, especially in countries like Nigeria and other tropical regions across the world.
In its World Toilet Day 2020 some emphasis was laid on the link between poor sanitation and the transmission of fatal, but preventable illnesses – such as cholera – and examines how these are now compounded by the effects of climate change.
It is noted that only 88 million people living in Nigeria (that is 44% of the population) can rely on safely managed sanitation – that is a toilet serviced to allow human waste to be treated and disposed of safely. While about 32 million people (16% of the population) have limited sanitation – that is the use of improved latrines where there is hygienic separation of human faeces from human contact but that is shared by two or more households. Also, some 112 million people still do not have access to a private toilet of their own, and about 46 million have no choice but to practice open defecation.
Where decent toilets are lacking, human faeces can contaminate the groundwater or end up in rivers and lakes, polluting what is often the only supply of water for drinking, cooking, and cleaning. Children play on ground rife with pathogens and because of faecal contamination, whole communities can contract diarrheal diseases. Also, inadequate sanitation in healthcare centres increases the risk of them becoming the epicentres of epidemics as only 7% of healthcare facilities in Nigeria have access to basic water and sanitation services and only 3.6% to combined water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services; putting the lives of doctors, nurses, midwives and patients at risk.
The most important thing of note is that climate change is aggravating the sanitation crisis. Extreme weather – floods, rising temperatures, prolonged droughts – are causing irreparable damage to weak sanitation systems and causing illnesses to spread further in vulnerable communities.
Therefore inclusive sanitation services help prevent the spread of infectious diseases and the international charity is encouraging governments to include ambitious sanitation plans in their climate change adaptation strategies so communities are better prepared to withstand the impacts of climate change. Whilst the world has rightly urgently risen to the challenge of Covid-19, every year hundreds of thousands of lives are silently lost because of lack of clean water, decent toilets and hygiene.