Monday, 19 November 2018

SANWAT, the Big Necessity

Today is World Toilet Day.  No, this isn't a joke, WTD is observed every year on 19th November.  Last year's theme was "Wastewater" -  this year's is "When Nature Calls."

I urge (a common verb in discussing our need for toilets) you to look up the details here:

One of the things I do is give talks on behalf of "Water Aid."

Probably the most attractive feature of Water Aid's work, in both interest and fund raising,   is helping to provide safe, clean and reliable supplies of water to the 750 million people in the world who don't have them.  Water supplies  enable us to advertise with eye-catching  pictures of happy children playing around pumps gushing out lovely droplets of pure-looking blue-tinged water.

But equally, if not more important, is the provision of facilities to enable the 2.5 billion people (that's about one in three of the world's population) to have the facility to defecate with dignity, in private, in hygienic conditions with the waste conducted away efficiently and without contaminating the water supply.

Like most things today we have an acronym.  The most popular version is WATSAN (Water and Sanitation), which puts the most attractive part of our work first.    However it can be argued that the correct order should be SANWAT because if sanitation problems are not solved than water supplies are almost inevitably contaminated.

In rural areas of the less developed world nearly a billion people rely on Open Defecation.  That means going off and squatting in the bush, with all the problems of stepping in someone-else's mess, flies hopping from faeces to food, the possibility of being bitten by animals, spotted by voyeurs or raped by predators.

Women are particular susceptible to these dangers as they tend to "go" at dawn or dusk.  In May 2014 the Western press caught news that two young girls had been found hanged in a tree in Uttar Pradesh after they had been raped. Later it emerged that they had been in the bush for open defecation.

In some ways problems are greater in urban areas where one solution is to use a plastic bag and then throw it as far away  as possible.  These packages are called "Flying Toilets.

Much of my information comes from splendid book "The Big Necessity" by Rose George.  I can't quote directly from it as my copy is out on loan at the moment.  I can however deduce that M/s George is a local girl as she mentions the splendidly kept public toilets of her youth in Long Causeway, Dewsbury.  Sadly our cash strapped Kirklees council, victim of government cuts, has now been forced to close them causing considerable inconvenience  to those  of us whom the Prayer Book  describes as "of riper years," increasingly subject to both "frequency" and "urgency."

What are we supposed to do?  Stay at home, I suppose, and practise being lonely..

The domestic problem not only affects the elderly. The trade union Unite reports that lack of "toilet dignity" is affecting workers from bus drivers to, (would you believe?), bankers, an unexpected aspect of unregulated free-market capitalism.

We probably won't be much help to domestic workers in call centres, but if you'd like to facilitate "dignity in defecation" for the rest of the world Water Aid would welcome your subscription.  Go to:,RA/TPP,OnlineRG,RA/TPP/01A&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI46Ly2u7g3gIVwhUYCh26cAX1EAAYASAAEgIU2fD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

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