World Toilet Day 2020


In Sanitation

Did you know:

  • 4.2 billion people live without safely managed sanitation – more than half the global population.
  • 673 million people still practise open defecation worldwide.
  • Inadequate sanitation is estimated to cause 432,000 diarrheal deaths every year and is a major factor in diseases such as intestinal worms, trachoma and schistosomiasis.
  • 297,000 children under five are estimated to die each year from diarrhoea as a result of unsafe drinking water, sanitation and hand hygiene.
  • Children under the age of five living in countries affected by protracted conflict are, on average, nearly 20 times more likely to die from diarrhoeal diseases caused by a lack of safe water, sanitation and hygiene than by direct violence.
  • Loss of productivity to water and sanitation-related diseases costs many countries up to 5% of GDP.

These startling statistics are just part of the reason why it’s vital we celebrate all things toilets on this World Toilet Day. Held annually on 19th November, World Toilet Day is a United Nations Observance that celebrates toilets and raises awareness of the 4.2 billion people living without access to safely managed sanitation. The day strives to inspire action to tackle the global sanitation crisis and achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) - which promises sanitation for all by 2030.

Coordinated by UN-Water in collaboration with governments and partners, the day shines a light on the fact that for billions of people around the world, sanitation systems are either non-existent or ineffective. This year’s theme is sustainable sanitation and climate change.

It may be something many of us haven’t thought about, but the effects of climate change threaten sanitation systems across the globe on a daily basis – from toilets to septic tanks to treatment plants. For instance, floodwater can damage toilets and spread human waste into water supplies, food crops and people’s homes. These incidents, which are becoming more frequent as climate change worsens, cause public health emergencies and degrade the environment.

As 4.2 billion people live without access to safely managed sanitation, they often use unreliable, inadequate toilets or practise open defecation. Untreated human waste gets out into the environment and spreads deadly and chronic diseases. Sustainable sanitation systems, combined with the facilities and knowledge to practise good hygiene, are a strong defence against COVID-19 and future disease outbreaks.

But it’s not just about improving hygiene, sustainable sanitation can help to solve other world issues. Globally, 80% of the wastewater generated by society flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused. Wastewater and sludge from toilets contain valuable water, nutrients, and energy. Sustainable sanitation systems also make productive use of waste to safely boost agriculture and reduce and capture emissions for greener energy.

So how do we attain sustainable sanitation? It all begins with a toilet that effectively captures human waste in a safe, accessible and dignified setting. The waste then gets stored in a tank, which can be emptied later by a collection service, or transported away by pipework. The next stage is treatment and safe disposal. Safe reuse of human waste helps save water, reduces and captures greenhouse gas emissions for energy production, and can provide agriculture with a reliable source of water and nutrients.

World toilet day seeks to bring ideas, resources and action together to make safe sustainable sanitation a reality for everyone.

World Toilet Day in the UK

Closer to home the issues may be different, but even first world countries have been experiencing toilet troubles associated with Covid-19. Not only have we been advised to flip down the toilet seat before we flush the toiletto stop toilet plume, (a potential spread of coronavirus) but it’s been increasingly hard to find publicly accessible toilets when away from home during the pandemic.

We’ve all now had a taste of what isolation at home feels like and for many of us it has been a challenging experience. Sadly, for vast swathes of the population - women, the elderly, the disabled and those with medical conditions, along with parents of babies and young children - leaving the house without access to clean, hygienic toilet facilities is a daunting task. Empathy with those who find themselves isolated or unable to leave their homes to undertake everyday tasks, simply down to a lack of public toilets, is surely so much easier to find.

National and local lockdowns are again hitting access to public toilets. A lack of provision to enable safe toileting and frequent hand washing highlights a grave public health issue in the face of Covid-19. This is why closing public toilets down must not be considered a cheap and easy option.

On the issue, Kevin Wellman, CEO of the CIPHE said, “Public toilets are a necessity and not a luxury, providing dignity, independence and safety to all. Simply following official public health advice means frequent hand washing is a high priority for keeping everyone safe from coronavirus. Add to this a fragile economy and a drive to get the public spending money on the High Street again, and the argument for councils to provide much needed public lavatories rings clear.”

To find out more on World Toilet Day visit

Find out more about the Love your local lav campaign.

Find out more about the flip ‘n’ flush campaign.