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WORLD TOILET DAY – DON’T LAUGH, THIS SH!T IS SERIOUS

World Toilet Day-laugh at this but it is a deadly serious issue.

Their name, they admit, ‘initially provoked much mixed reactions’ but the World Toilet Organization (WTO) is looking to rival its acronymic namesake, the World Trade Organization, in its influence.  As full colour advertisements taken out in the Saturday Nation and The Standard on Saturday under the eye-catching headline, ‘Where do you sh!t? What a question!’ revealed it was time to mark ‘World Toilet Day – Ending open defecation to save lives’, a campaign supported by ‘Plan’, an international ‘child-centred’ organization and the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation.

There are now lots of ‘Days’ in the calendar: ‘World Health Day’ (April 7), ‘World Population Day’ (July 11) and ‘World Teachers Day’ (October 5) are but three from many examples. ‘World Diabetes Day’ was held last week. ‘World No-Tobacco Day’ comes around every May 31, ‘National Donut Day’ on May 6, and the little known ‘International Talk Like a Pirate Day’ is every September 19 (we missed that one this year m’ hearties!) So why not ‘World Toilet Day’?

The WTO say that since their campaign began in 2001, ‘prior to which the subject of toilets and what to do in the toilet was a taboo topic’, their ‘unique mix of humour and serious facts’ has excited the global media and the imaginations of their audiences and readers’ and that this will be ‘the fourth year that Kenya has been celebrating the day’.

Well the Kenya Forum hadn’t picked up on ‘World Toilet Day’ before and we didn’t notice the streets thronging with Kenyans wildly celebrating the big day on Saturday but the WTO have a point and perhaps the tactic of shock combined with humour is the best way to get their message across.

19 MILLION KENYANS – NO LATRINES

According to the WTO, and the Forum has no reason to disbelieve them, 54 per cent of the population (19 million people) in Kenya do not have access to a

19 million Kenyan don't have this luxury

latrine, of which some 10 million ‘have to answer the call of nature in the open fields or bushes’ (the Coast, Eastern, Nyanza and Rift valley provinces have the highest number of open defecators).

As daily we each head off to the toilet about six times that means that every day the 10 million Kenyans in that position dump 5,000 tons (half a kilo of kinyesi each) into our environment. Another 21 million Kenyans use unhygienic latrines and others use ‘hanging toilets’ that empty straight into open drains.

6,000 DIE EVERY DAY WORLDWIDE

Yes, it is a difficult subject to address and it does give rise to scatological humour and ribald school boy jokes but it is a serious issue.

The WTO reckons that 6,000 people (of which 5,400 are children) die worldwide every day from diseases caused by human faeces. ‘Sadly’, they say, ‘50 years after independence and several hygiene campaigns by the government and NGOs, there has been very little change’. Surely, they argue, ‘we need to do something fast to effectively address this issue’.

The politicians, they demand, should ‘fund and promote behaviour change (the Forum suggests they should also fund public lavatories); the private sector should ‘ensure that workers have a toilet and hand-washing facilities’; the ‘faith-based organizations’ should help congregations to ‘understand the health benefits of better sanitation’; teachers should educate children ‘that using the toilet and washing their hands keeps them healthy’; and communities should eliminate open defecation.

The Kenya Forum agrees with the WTO. They are to be congratulated for trying to end the silence and inaction surrounding this natural human function and the deadly results if it is not handles properly. 6,000 deaths a day demands the subject should be taken seriously.

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