I give a shit, Do you? Sanitation is Dignity
Many people may shy away from discussing the usually straightforward act of going to the toilet, but the fact remains that the act of using toilet is far from being a simple exercise in some parts of the world. Globally 1.1 billion people defecate in the open and this is common mainly in the slums.
But in 2001, the World Toilet Organization declared its founding day, 19 November, as World Toilet Day. Since then, 19 November has been observed globally by its member organizations. Such a day opens up an opportunity to the people to discuss this very important subject to the men, women, children, the old, the rich and the poor.
However the problem of having no toilets and proper usage is more pronounced in the poor societies
In these slums, hundreds of thousands of people live in homes that are little more than makeshift shacks, in such situations the people lack the most basic water and sanitation facilities, and just one public toilet is available to every 300 people.
Such condition first of all makes people become adept at holding it in, often spending hours in discomfort. Secondly the people eventually find relief by doing the necessary in a plastic bag, and then tossing it out onto path outside. This is termed as “flying toilets”, one of the many scourges of life in slums like Katanga.
Sanitation is one of the world’s biggest problems. Forty percent of the world’s population don’t have toilets. Yet experts say about 70% of the diseases come from the lack of sanitation, where water is polluted.
Uganda’s population is estimated at 34.5 million people, according to the Uganda National Bureau of Statistics.
Authority at the ministry of health indicated that the National Average toilet coverage is around 68% which means almost seven homes out of every 10.
However the coverage also differs according to the locality, 80% that is eight homes out of every 10 in urban areas have toilets, and 60% a representative of six homes out of every 10 in rural areas have toilet facilities. In the slums the situation is bad because the coverage is 40% indicating that four homes out of every 10 have toilets.
Now governments and the Non Governmental Organizations (NGO) have embarked on finding solutions to the problem especially in the Slums and other parts of the community in order to attain the sanitation Millennium Development Goal by 2015.
Marking this year’s World Toilet Day the state minister in charge of Primary Health Care in Uganda Sarah Opendi stressed the need for all stakeholders both in Government and Non government Organization to step up their efforts to ensure the people have and use toilet facilities.
Opendi asked leaders at the District and other local government levels to reach out their communities with by-laws on sanitation issues without being intimidated with denial of votes in the next political elections.
The minister said that “government aims to stop open defecating by the year 2018 and the leaders should not focus at achieving such targets in 2030 and beyond”
Opendi stressed that whereas the country’s progress on attaining the Millennium Development Goals has not been convincing, as a country we can use the remaining 700 days to make a difference on the sanitation front.
Because Uganda’s performance in terms of sanitation stands at 71 % which is still below the Millennium Development Goal target of 77%, the ministry of education, health , that of Water and Environment all other agencies need work closely together to have get the country back on track for the Millennium Development Goals, said Opendi.
She says that government losses 389 Billion shillings due to the productive time lost and treatment of its people who suffer from illnesses caused by poor sanitation.
“yet this 389 billion shillings could be used in other sectors if saved, for instance we(government) are looking for 30 billion shillings for starting the students’ loan scheme which we do not have”
Meanwhile both international and local civil society organizations have embarked on sensitization and other activities to ensure sanitation and hygiene for the people.some of the initiatives include designing biodegradable bags that can be used as toilets and after which the human waste is sold out to be used in making fertilizers. Hopefully this will give an income to many but also ensure hygiene and dignity.