World Toilet Day

World Toilet Day is an international observance day that falls on November 19th and is designed to bring international attention to the fact that 2.5 billion people lack proper sanitation. It is a day that was created by the World Toilet Organization but was later recognized by an official United Nations resolution.

History of World Toilet Day

The history of World Toilet Day can be traced back to November 19th, 2001. This is not only the date when the World Toilet Organization (WTO) was founded but also the day when the first official World Toilet Summit was held.

This summit took place in cities all over the world. Some of the cities that participated include Solo, Singapore, Moscow, Philadelphia, Beijing, Macau, Seoul, and New Delhi. The WTO has held 15 successful summits since that initial summit, and over 11,000 people have attended them.

The World Toilet Organization provides a global platform for organizations around the world to exchange information and leverage corporate support to promote clean sanitation and public health policies. Some of the organizations involved include governments worldwide, academic institutions, the United Nations, and toilet associations.

Recognizing the need to improve water sanitation and to increase access to improved sanitation facilities, the United Nations passed U.N. Resolution A/67/L.75, which established November 19th as World Toilet Day.

The purpose of this observance day is to draw the world’s attention to sanitation issues worldwide and to educate the public on the effects this lack of sanitation has not only on the people in these areas but also on the community at large and the world.

In 2016, it was estimated that 2.5 billion people—or about 1 person out of 3 in the world—lack access to proper sanitation facilities, and about half of that number, or almost 1 billion people, have to defecate in the open.

Like the right to clean water and food, sanitation is a basic human right. Not having sufficient access to proper sanitation facilities has a major impact not only on the dignity of people but also on their health and safety.

The Impacts of Poor Sanitation

Improper sanitation spreads many different types of diseases and health conditions, such as helminthiasis, schistosomiasis, and diarrhea. Scientists estimate that almost 60% of all cases of diarrhea are caused by poor sanitation, unsafe water, and inadequate hygiene.

In 2013 alone, over 300,000 children under the age of five died from sanitation-related diarrhea. That comes to almost 1,000 child deaths every single day. It is estimated that with proper sanitation, the mortality rate of children under the age of five would be reduced by about 20%.

Giving people access to basic toilet systems is believed to decrease the rate of disease twice as much as access to clean drinking water but at a fraction of the cost. Defecation in public not only impacts human health and safety but also significantly affects dignity.

This is especially true for women and young girls in developing countries who face the shame and loss of privacy of defecating in public daily. The shame and lack of privacy have such an impact on these women that many of them will hold their bladder and bowels the entire day—relieving themselves only after nightfall.

Holding their urine and feces not only increases their risk of bladder and bowel infections but urinating or defecating at night increases their chances of being sexually assaulted. Many areas where women have to defecate in public have increased instances of sexual assault and harassment. In some countries, it has been found that after providing access to public toilets, the rates of sexual assaults have decreased.

World Toilet Day Customs & Traditions

Every year, the United Nations comes up with a different slogan or theme for this day. In 2012, the slogan was “I give a shit—do you?” In 2015, the theme was toilets and nutrition, and in 2016, the theme was water and jobs.

Individuals wishing to promote World Toilet Day do so in various ways. Some people take to social media to talk about the effects of proper sanitation and improved toilet facilities. Others organize petitions or get involved in some of the countries where improved sanitation facilities are being implemented.

When is it?
This year (2024)
November 19 Tuesday
Next year (2025)
November 19 Wednesday
Last year (2023)
November 19 Sunday
Awareness & Cause, United Nations