How toilets fight poverty

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Abul uses the newly constructed Oxfam latrine near his home in Balukhali Camp, Bangladesh. “We used to go far away around the bushes to the toilet,” he says. “At night I went with my friends, but I was scared. Now we have a clean latrine next to our house and I’m not scared anymore." Photo: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam

Safe water, good hygiene, and improved sanitation save lives

Whether in an emergency like the pandemic, or for everyday use at home or at school, toilets are essential. Yet, more than 4.6 billion people don’t have a proper toilet. That’s according to the UN and its World Toilet Day effort, launched in 2013 and celebrated every year on November 19, which raises awareness about the role toilets play in fighting poverty.

Living in a world without decent toilets (especially ones connected to a system that safely handles waste) puts people at risk of disease, pollutes the environment, and discourages girls from attending school. Globally, at least 2 billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with feces.

That’s why Oxfam provides toilets, clean water, and encourages good hygiene practices in the wake of natural disasters and other emergencies, and works with communities to build decent latrines and proper sanitation systems for everyday use. Safe water, good hygiene, and improved sanitation can save as many as 842,000 lives per year, according to the UN. Toilets can actually save lives!

See for yourself the difference toilets make, every day and in emergencies. 


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This story was originally published in December 2019.

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