It’s crazy that toilets are still shrouded in taboo in this day and age. There are 2.4 billion people around the world who don’t have a loo and are suffering for it. Mary Grimwade is kicking up a stink about the humble dunny this World Toilet Day and getting to the bottom of the issue.
Working loos are something that we all take for granted. Clean water, sanitation and hygiene are crucial lifelines for rural and metro communities worldwide. In a village without bathroom facilities, basic health standards go down the gurgler and preventable diseases spread like wildfire. Imagine how crap it would be if the essential toilet comforts you use every day were beyond your reach. This is a reality for most rural Cambodians, and the consequence is not pretty.
On World Toilet Day 2016, Sunrise Cambodia is launching Crappers for Cambodia – a Christmas campaign aiming to raise $100 000 to change lives in rural Cambodia one toilet at a time. We’re engaging with gritty bathroom realities and asking you to join us in our campaign to give Cambodians their dignity back. So in the name of celebrating sanitation, take action and donate to give rural Cambodians the lavs they’ll love.
Number 2’s and some other digits
Number two’s kill kids in Cambodia. It’s no laughing matter. UNICEF estimates around 2,300 Cambodian kids die every year from preventable diseases like diarrhoea. The UNICEF WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) study has dished more details on the dookie, revealing that most rural Cambodians still engage in open defecation to relieve themselves daily.
Open defecation – doing your business in rice fields, paddocks and streams for those not in the know – is at the root of many health problems in Cambodia. Diarrhoea, malnutrition, stunted growth in children and cognitive problems amongst many more. The worst thing is, it’s here to stay unless we can make a change. Why? Because the culture around subpar toiletry practices is incredibly overwhelming. Under a third of Cambodians are regularly using loos. In fact, among the poorest of Cambodians, fewer than 5% have a decent loo in their home, school, or work place. This costs the government more than $400 million in health costs annually. It costs Cambodian people thousands of their lives.
Cambodian’s living in rural areas understand the nasty impacts of mixing waste matter with growing crops, but they just don’t have the economic means to find a better option.
The Cambodia Daily talked to Siev Phalla, a 47-year-old farmer from Pursat province who lives with her husband and seven children. Their small plot of land gives them food and sustenance, but it’s also their bathroom. Basic toilets are so sparse that it’s become normal to use the open space in rice fields to defecate. Imagine doing your business literally in your business – the crops that feed you. You lose your dignity. You lose your crops. And you lose your health.
Ms. Phalla knows exactly what a difference a dunny makes but, “For us, we don’t have enough money to build it”. It’s that simple. This is where we come in.
The Cambodian Government has set a community health goal to be open defecation-free by 2025 . Sunrise Cambodia is committed to helping them reach this target. Everyone deserves a quiet, clean and safe spot to answer a call to nature.
The lowly loo is a total game change
The simple presence of a household dunny can motivate tremendous change in countries like Cambodia. According to Live Science, positive benefits of the porcelain throne include:
- Preventing disease and keeping people healthy
- Putting an end to eye infections causing blindness
- Keeping women safe from sexual violence
- Endorsing school attendance
- Saving energy and promoting sustainability
Sanitation Means Safety and Security on the Female Front
For women, living without a loo isn’t just an inconvenience – it’s dangerous. A study done by WaterAid in 2013 revealed the negative impacts of bad hygiene and lack of water supplies in developing communities is worse for girls and women.
Girls drop out of school when they begin to menstruate as there isn’t anywhere for them to keep clean and they want to avoid public humiliation. This slows down their education and eventually, many of them stop coming to school entirely because they can’t keep up. The humble loo could fix that. It did, at Kampong Speu.
See these girls? Last year, they skipped school for a week out of every month. They would rather stay home from school than share one toilet between 80 kids. Generous donors funded a huge toilet block at their school and attendance rates have gone from 80 kids to more than 800! And most of them are girls.
Without household toilets, women have to venture out in the privacy of the night. This is why when the number of private, safe loos is down, the rate of sexual harassment and assault goes up. This is a common problem throughout the developing world and is prevalent in rural Cambodia. A toilet doesn’t just mean cleanliness to women but it also provides a sanctuary where women’s business can happen without unwanted interruption.
The key to success
Creating behavioural change in rural Cambodia is just as important as installing toilets. Promoting a new hygiene culture centred around toilets can rally support in the community and make using the toilet a ‘must do’ not a sometimes thing, or a maybe or ‘when I feel like it’ scenario.
One way to stop or limit open defecation is to foster a collective can-do attitude in communities after loos are installed. This will be part of Sunrise Cambodia’s commitment to the loo – highlighting the way that total sanitation can only be achieved when everyone commits to the change through health education. This notion helps people support each other to flush old habits and embrace the new.
So, next time you wipe your bottom with a poo ticket, hit the flush and wash your hands with clean water, take a moment to think about what you would do if you didn’t have a toilet at all.
Mundane to us, the humble household toilet is a life-changer for many. Donate now to give ongoing health, sanitation and dignity for rural Cambodians. Let’s put poverty in the potty.