One toilet for every 53 people

In Togo, 7 people out of 10 don’t have access to adequate toilet facilities.  With a population of 5.8 million, this country only has 120,000 toilets, meaning on average one toilet for every 53 people. In sharp contrast, one in five British single householders have at least two toilets. This is a luxury that is foreign to the majority of Togolese who live in a country where 39 per cent of people don’t have access to clean water and a quarter of the population doesn’t have access to drinking water within 30 minutes of walking distance.

A recent study commissioned by the Co-operative Pharmacy to launch a three year partnership with UNICEF highlights the staggering gap in sanitation between the developing world and the UK. The study found that in the UK:

  • 60 per cent of women and 40 per cent of men cited privacy as the main reason for not wanting to use toilet facilities to go for a poo.
  • Three in five women do not to use facilities on a train or coach.
  • Some of the most common reasons cited for not using the toilet away from home included embarrassment of making a smell.

Where we take sanitation for granted, many people in developing countries cannot afford to be this choosey. In Togo,  60 per cent of the population defecate in the open. Lack of sanitation facilities forces people to defecate in rivers or near areas where children play or food is prepared. This increases the risk of transmitting diseases such as hepatitis A, diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid, and dysentery. In Africa, 115 people die every hour from diseases related to poor sanitation.

Poor sanitation not only causes diseases, it also has a significant economic impact and prevents children, in particular girls, from receiving an education. As reported by the Guardian’s series on international development:

Grace was missing up to a week of school each month when she had her period and was falling so far behind she was finding it impossible to catch up. The basic cloths that girls traditionally use for sanitary protection are uncomfortable, unreliable and often lead to infection. This, coupled with a lack of private toilet facilities at school and no soap and water make it difficult for them to handle their periods effectively. [Read more…]

Sanitation is a basic need and improvements in sanitation ensure better health. The Millennium Development Goals aim to achieve 75 per cent sanitation coverage by 2015. Investing in sanitation produces a high rate of return. Every US$ 1 invested in improved sanitation results in an average of US$ 9 return in value. In light of this, it is highly encouraging to see the Co-operative Pharmacy committing funds to improve sanitation.

Julie Weston, Director of Fundraising, UNICEF UK stated, “The report highlights that across the world today, billions of people don’t have access to the most basic toilets. This isn’t just about comfort or privacy. Poor sanitation leads to illness, causes children, especially girls, to miss out on school, and in many cases leads to death. UNICEF believes this is wrong, and we are proud that The Co-operative Pharmacy has committed its support to help us put it right.”

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