In a bid to make sanitation for all a global development priority, the United Nations on Wednesday declared November 19 as World Toilet Day following a proposal by Singapore whose envoy said he did not care if jokes are made.
The UN said in a statement: “The amusement and laughter likely to follow the designation of 19 November as ‘World Toilet Day’ would all be worthwhile if people’s attention was drawn to the fact that 2.5 billion people lacked proper sanitation and 1.1 billion were forced to defecate in the open, the General Assembly heard today.”
Adopting the new resolution, the Assembly urged UN Member States and relevant stakeholders to encourage behavioural change and the implementation of policies to increase access to sanitation among the poor, along with a call to end the practice of open-air defecation, which it deemed “extremely harmful” to public health.
A Singapore UN representative put the importance of World Toilet Day in even starker relief, adding that while many citizens worldwide find the issue of bathrooms funny or simply take proper facilities for granted, much of the planet doesn’t have that luxury.
He said: “Ending open defecation will lead to a 35 per cent reduction in diarrhea, which results in over 750,000 deaths of children under five years of age every year.”
The U.N. says that while six billion people in the world (out of a total population of 7 billion) have access to a mobile phone, only 4.5 billion people have access toilets or latrines. If everyone in the world had access to a toilet, it’s estimated that the lives of 200,000 children could be saved each year.
Singapore took up the toilet cause because of the efforts of Jack Sim, a citizen of the city-state known as “Mr Toilet” because of his efforts to improve sanition around the world, writes the NY Daily News.
UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson praised Singapore’s action. “Proper sanitation is a question of basic dignity,” Eliasson said.
“Sanitation For All” is one of eight Millennium Development Goals adopted by the U.N.,” a blueprint of global aims agreed to by all member nations.
Eliasson added: “Despite progress toward the Millennium Development Goals, one in three people do not have a basic toilet.”
“Almost 2,000 children die every day from preventable diarrhoeal diseases. Poor sanitation and water supply result in economic losses estimated at $260 billion annually in developing countries.”
Months ahead of World Toilet Day, a Twitter account aims to raise awareness too — but be warned, many of the hashtags contain a word considered to be moderately profane, says Inquisitr.
After a year-and-a-half of collaboration between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) and WTO, the resolution was tabled and adopted by consensus yesterday at the 67th session of the UN General Assembly in New York.
World Toilet Day has previously been marked by international and civil society organizations all over the world. However, it was not formally recognized as an official UN day until July 24, 2013.