How many times do you visit your toilet each day? How much loo roll do you use? How many times do you wash your hands afterwards then leave the bathroom and continue with your day? It’s hard for us to imagine a world in which toilets are a scarce and luxurious commodity. But life in poverty-stricken Kenya tells a different story…
There are 8 million Kenyans who don’t have access to a toilet – that’s over half the population of rural Kenya. Some rural villages have built their own toilets using wood and corrugated sheets. For privacy there may be a curtain strung across the entrance but this isn’t always the case. Toilet paper is non-existent and leaves are often used instead. Toilets are most commonly built as pit latrines that are dug down as deep as 20 feet. Once the pit is full of waste it is covered over and the toilet structure is moved to a new location. Sharing one toilet between an entire village is arduously challenging. The smell permeates through the entire community and queuing to use it can be time-consuming. Many schools and churches are often without their own latrine facilities and must rely on the availability of the communal village toilet. That is, of course, if there is one.
However difficult sharing a toilet amongst an entire village might be, the lack of any facility is even more devastating. Open defecation is widely practised across rural Kenya in fields and rivers which may also provide the community’s only source of drinking water. This is how disease spreads: through contaminated water sources carrying harmful bacteria that is then consumed and ingested by thousands of people. Water-borne diseases like cholera and diarrhoea account for over 20,000 deaths per year – 3,100 of which are children. Open defecation also carries great risk for girls and women of attack from predators. We take our toilets and sanitation facilities for granted because they are considered a necessity. How can we help those who aren’t as fortunate as us?
World Toilet Day is a day to raise awareness and inspire action to tackle the global sanitation crisis – a topic often neglected and shrouded in taboos. Last year we marked the day with a fundraising party and a visit from Dr. Poo – a specialist in all things toilet related! Dr. Poo arrived at the children’s party a little late and covered in poo! Apparently, there had been a ‘blowback’ situation! He educated them on the workings of the toilet, how to recognise various animal poo (which he then tasted!) and the serious nature and reality of going to a toilet in Africa. There were toilet related games and a cake with a toilet on top! The purpose of the party was to raise money to ‘twin’ the two toilets at the party venue (the church hall) having already twinned the toilets in both the parish churches.
Next year we hope to have another party to raise funds for materials to build toilets in the three communities in Kenya that we support. We hope that our water and toilet specialist friend (not Dr. Poo this time!) will be able to go there to educate the people and to show them how to build their own toilets.
If you would like to know more about how to support World Toilet Day and how to ‘twin’ your own toilet visit www.toilettwinning.org