World Toilet Day 2011
Malteser International: When it comes to poo, culture matters, too!
Cologne. Going to the toilet may seem a normal, everyday act for some, but it is a daunting task for millions of people around the world – for whom a toilet is nowhere to be found. The lack of private, clean spaces to “take care of business” is a serious problem with dire consequences for people’s health and well-being. That’s why, on the occasion of World Toilet Day, Malteser International, the Order of Malta’s relief service for humanitarian aid, calls for increasing access to sanitation that is not only adequate, but that also takes cultural aspects into consideration.
According to a 2010 WHO report, 2.6 billion people worldwide lack basic sanitation. “These people have to worry every day about how to relieve themselves without feeling ashamed”, says Arno Coerver, regional water, sanitation & hygiene (WASH) coordinator at Malteser International. “They have to wait until night-time to defecate, or hide in the bushes. Needless to say, that is not only difficult, but also dangerous – especially for women and children, or for those who are ill”.
In each of its project countries, Malteser International looks for cost-efficient, technically simple and safe sanitation alternatives, which can be adjusted to meet the needs of different cultures and environments. In Myanmar, for instance, the community decided, together with the local staff, to build double-pit latrines, a type of composting toilet which uses two separate waste collection pits alternatively. “When deciding on what kind of toilet house to build, the community came up with the idea to make a light structure that can be easily shifted from one pit to the other”, Coerver says. In Cambodia, the communities supported by Malteser International were also encouraged to select and build their own latrines. “Consequently, you see a whole range of different latrines: some with brick walls and bathing facilities, others with simple cabins made of bamboo and grass”, Coerver explains.
Along with building toilets and sanitation facilities, Malteser International also works to raise awareness and promote hygienic practices in the communities it works in. “Hand-washing continues to be the best, most cost-effective method to prevent diarrhoea and other infections”, says Roland Hansen, head of the Asia & Haiti department at Malteser International.
Lack of sanitation and hygiene causes 2.4 million deaths annually; it kills more than 4,000 children every day, and contributes to malnutrition. The United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals call for the proportion of people who lack access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation to be halved by 2015. “Of all the Millennium Development Goals, sanitation is among the areas where the least progress has been made so far”, Hansen says. “We need to give sanitation the attention it deserves.”
See a selection of photos of our toilets around the world!
Attention editors: Roland Hansen, head of the Asia & Haiti department at Malteser International, is available for interviews. Contact through Malteser International’s headquarters at +49 (0) 221 98 22-169.
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Malteser International is the worldwide relief agency of the Sovereign Order of Malta for humanitarian aid. The organisation provides aid in about 100 projects in more than 20 countries without distinction of religion, race or political persuasion. Christian values and the humanitarian principles of impartiality and independence are the foundation of its work. For further information: www.malteser-international.org and www.orderofmalta.int
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