Of the 7.6 billion people that comprise the world’s population, 74% — a lucky 5.5 billion of us have basic sanitation or better, but an unlucky 2 billion of us still don’t have even basic sanitation. Of those, 673 million are defecating outside — farm fields, streets, behind bushes, gutters, open bodies of water — wherever they are able.
According to a 2012 report by the World Health Organization (WHO), “for every US$ 1.00 invested in sanitation, there was a return of US$ 5.50 in lower health costs, more productivity, and fewer premature deaths.”
So how do we fix the problem? Start by educating yourself on the issues. Then get involved. Form partnerships and alliances. Make like-minded friends. Let’s make water, sanitation and hygiene, or WASH, available for the whole world not just the lucky 5.5 billion.
November 19th is World Toilet Day. In celebration, how about a poem by Dr. Morssink, President of the Global Water Alliance, who is fond of saying, “when nature calls, will we hear?”
An Ode to the Throne
by Christiaan Morssink for World Toilet Day
It’s always calm near the throne;
Homework was made and creative ideas unleashed;
Splendor was not a thought and ‘t was always cool if not cold;
With windows open and ventilation improved;
Birthday calendars hanging on eyelevel
As to not forget who to mail a card or buy a present;
Niagara was printed on the cistern high;
Having visited the real falls, an exaggeration indeed;
Nevertheless, a throne it was and a democratic one at that;
Build to flush whosoever’s excrements were deposited;
Carrying weights of many variations;
Fear only if the frame is small and tiny;
Now we embellish the surroundings of our thrones;
A whole room is made for it and splendid furniture abound;
Some have several in their homes and none bang on doors;
Demanding their own moment of reflection during exertion;
We will never know how much our throne has maintained our health;
No need to contemplate indeed;
Yet, every traveler knows, wherever we go;
A throne nearby is what we need.
Dr. Morssink holds Candidandus and Doctorandus degrees in cultural anthropology and non-Western sociology, respectively, from the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, a MPH from Johns Hopkins, and a Ph.D. in Health Policy and Administration from the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health. Access to clean water for all is one of the goals he holds nearest to his heart.