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THEMBA KHOZA | Toilets, proper sanitation have socio-economic benefits

Toilet sign
Toilet sign
Image: Stock Image

A toilet is one of the smallest rooms but it is also the most important and mighty place for humans.

A toilet is normally taken for granted but has the important responsibility of giving and preserving human dignity.

On November 19, annually, the world comes together to observe World Toilet Day to highlight the importance of toilets and proper sanitation, and also to raise the plight of those who do not have access to proper sanitation.

World Toilet Day inspires action to tackle the global sanitation crisis and help achieve the Sustainable Development Goal which calls sanitation for all by 2030. The goal has a target to eliminate open defecation and ensure everyone has access to sustainable sanitation services by 2030, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations.

World Toilet Day also raises awareness of the importance of a toilet and proper sanitation for human dignity, a safe and healthy environment.

This year, the World Toilet Day is celebrated under the theme “Accelerating Change” and uses the ancient tale of a hummingbird who does what she can to fire a great fire by carrying droplets of water in her beak.

Her actions, even though small, are helping solve a big problem. The story conveys a message that each of us can take action, however small, to help solve the big sanitation problem.

Access to proper sanitation and access to water are human rights, and these services are critical to people’s health and the integrity of the environment.

Lack of toilets and proper sanitation forces people to practise open defecation which takes away their human dignity and leads to the loss of self-confidence, especially among women and the girl child.

Open defecation also spreads diseases like diarrhoea which has serious health and socio-economic implications.

A toilet is not just a toilet, it’s a life saver.

Lack of toilets and proper sanitation also compromises human safety as people might be attacked by snakes and other animals when they use the veld to relieve themselves.

The lack of proper sanitation services also negatively affects women and children as it denies them privacy and makes them vulnerable to rape and abuse.

The lack of toilets and proper sanitation also negatively affects the environment.

It leads to pollution which negatively affects the quality of water in our water resources leading to waterborne diseases and loss of precious lives. The negative effect on water quality not only affects human, but also livestock, aquatic life and the environment at large.

Sanitation challenges are mostly experienced in rural and informal settlements, therefore it is critical that more focus is placed in these areas to ensure the elimination of inequalities in access and use which undermine progress.

Communities and law enforcement must work together to prevent activities which prevent people from receiving essential services and compromises their dignity, health and safety.

Lack of operations and maintenance has a negative impact on sanitation systems resulting in sewer spillages. Municipalities need to invest in operations and maintenance of their wastewater treatment plants and pipelines. Communities also have a role in preventing sewer blockages by not putting foreign objects on the sewer lines.

A toilet plays a very important role in creating a powerful economy as well as enhancing the health and preserving the dignity and safety of people. Toilets and proper sanitation systems have socio-economic benefits, therefore it is important that we all ensure that everyone has access to a safe and proper toilet and sanitation services because sanitation is dignity.


  • Themba Khoza is a communicator in the department of water and sanitation

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