When you get that feeling … when you can’t hold it any longer and you just have to go … where do you do it?
I grew up in Australia and remember spending summers in the outback. When nature called, I would have to use an outhouse — a long drop toilet in a tiny shed in the backyard. I would go as quickly as possible, terrified that a snake lived in the toilet and would attack me if I took too long. Now, living in New York City, there are plenty of places to go when nature calls.
But not everyone has that luxury. 4.5 billion people around the world don’t use safe sanitation, which is a toilet that prevents contact with human waste and a system that disposes of that waste.
Around 892 million people use no toilet at all, and when nature calls, they go out in the open. That means children are growing up with human waste in their environment, putting them at risk of deadly diseases.
To mark World Toilet Day, we decided to look around the world to see where children go when nature calls on them.
In Totorenda, Bolivia, Mateo who is only three years old, uses his family’s toilet. His mother is still training him in how to use a toilet and wash his hands.
In Afghanistan, Fatima’s two children Alicina and Sohaila go in a community-built toilet. Fatima volunteered with the village health committee to generate support for toilets to be built in their area. She says her children don’t get sick now because “no one is pooping out in the open”. Read more here.
In Ghana, when nature calls, children in the village of Gbandu use a latrine in a mud hut, built as part of a community-led sanitation project. Each homestead in the village has one of these toilets.
In India, 7-year-old Eriam goes in a toilet on stilts near her home in Mumbai. This isn’t safe at all, as the waste flows straight into the Rafiq Nagar river. But things are changing here, and children like Lavanya are turning things around.
When nature calls for Lavanya, she goes to the toilet her father built in their home. But that wasn’t always the case. Lavanya went on a two-day hunger strike last year to force her dad to build a toilet for their family to use. She recounts her story in the video below.
In Cambodia, a 6th grade student from Serey Pheap Primary School proudly told us that she stopped pooping outside when the school built new toilets. Before the toilets were built, about 10 per cent of students would go outside. Now, she not only uses the toilet but also washes her hands afterwards. Read more about toilets in Cambodia here.
In Madagascar, girls at the Lohanosy Primary School queue up for toilets. They take it in turns to go and then wash their hands at the taps nearby.
When nature calls, where does this woman in Mozambique go? We don’t know, but we hope she has a toilet that is clean and safe.
For too many people, nature calls and there is nowhere to go. Or sometimes, there are toilets but they aren’t safe. On 19 November — World Toilet Day, join UNICEF and make a stink for the 4.5 billion people who don’t have a safe toilet to use when nature calls.
Philippa Lysaght works in advocacy for UNICEF’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene team.