#WorldToiletDay: School Pupils in Berlin Demand Safe Sanitation for Everyone Worldwide

the toilet exhibition tent in Berlin (©Wöhlert)

Dressed in suits, Berlin school students publicly demonstrated on the occasion of World Toilet Day 2019. They invited passers-by to a “toilet exhibition tent” at Potsdamer Platz in the heart of Germany’s capital. Inside the tent, a self-built, “inadequate” toilet demonstrated the poor sanitary conditions, which are reality in many parts of the world. Bottles of dirty water were handed out and a toilet-cake was on offer. The message: Toilets can save lives!

The students are highlighting the fact that the global community can only achieve their self-imposed development goals, if they show solidarity with those, who are most affected by the sanitation crisis: the elderly, sick, refugees, children, otherwise marginalised groups and all those affected by disasters who are most affected by the world’s sanitation crisis.

Toilets are an elementary part of human dignity and since 2010 also a human right. It is a scandal that many politicians do not know this and that the states do not act sufficiently, a spokesman for the students explained. The states would only achieve their self-imposed United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals in the area of sanitation if politics finally got the taboo subject out of the dirty corner. Goal 6 of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals calls for safe toilets, clean drinking water and access to hygiene for all people by 2030.

“If governments and even donor countries like Germany do not start to focus their efforts on those people who are most difficult to reach, we will crash and miss this target,” explains Johannes Rück, spokesman for the German Toilet Organization (GTO). There are still 673 million people without toilets, including the poor, the elderly and the sick, residents of slums, refugees, indigenous people and those affected by disasters. World Bank figures prove that the aid is not reaching these people today: only 6% of the subsidies that flow into water and sanitation in developing countries benefit the poorest 20% of the population.

“Where would you hide?” ©Wöhlert

According to the WHO, access to water, sanitation and hygiene can save the lives of 297,000 children under the age of 5 every year. Washing hands also reduces the risk of diarrhoea by 30 percent. Although the proportion of people with access to safely managed sanitation has risen from 28 to 45 percent in the last 10 years, 673 million people are still defecating in the open – an inhumane situation with serious consequences for public health and the environment. WHO studies further show that increasing investment in access to improved toilets results in low health costs, higher productivity and fewer premature deaths.

The event was part of the development education project “Toiletised World” of the GTO. Within the project, GTO organises one-day workshops at schools and jointly plans events to raise public awareness for development-policy issues with the school children.

Activities on World Toilet Day 2010

World Toilet” was a trending topic on Twitter today – a great success in social media, because a trending topic is a keyword or a combination of words on Twitter which are most often used during a given time and appear in a list of the 10 most often used keywords on Twitter. With Twitter being the de facto live indicator in social media with a world wide audience, this may indeed be regarded as a success.

WTD2010 events
some of the WTD 2010 events, mapped by the World Toilet Organization

Fortunately, many activities on World Toilet Day this year also covered some less virtual protest, like the opening of the 30th school toilet in a Georgian kindergarten via Women in Europe for a Common Future and their Georgian partner RCDA:

“Not only are the new toilets indoors, as opposed to the previously used pit latrines, they are specifically adapted to children’s use, have hand washing facilities and most importantly; they do not smell.”

Right here in Germany, over 100 students from schools in Berlin together with the German Toilet Organization (GTO) drew the attention to the current situation in Haiti and reemphasised the importance of adequate sanitation. Haiti is currently experiencing a cholera epidemic which has already claimed over 1000 lives. Cholera is caused by substandard sanitation and hygiene.

Toiletised World

Together with the German Toilet Organization (GTO), these youngsters protested at Berlin’s Alexanderplatz for a “Toiletised World”. With artistically designed toilet seats, bush toilets and other creative ideas, the students made their presence felt.

The German Federal Minister for Development Dirk Niebel applauded the students’ commitment to the World Toilet Day. Niebel explains that water and sanitation improvements remain a central focus of German international development work and goes beyond the current situation in Haiti. “Sustainable sanitation is essential, especially for children in order for them to grow up healthy and take part in education” the Minister stressed. “It is in schools where the foundations of behavioural changes in terms of hygiene and sustainable resource use are laid“.

Remember, World Toilet Day is celebrated on November 19 every year, and since EVERY HUMAN BEING HAS TO DEFECATE AND URINATE, a World Toilet Day affects all of use, rich and poor, sick or healthy.

So kudos to the World Toilet Organisation, Jack Sim and his dilligent team, for campaigning on- and offline & pushing the World Toilet Day on the international agenda!

Disclaimer: WTO, GTO and WECF are all partners of the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance.