World Toilet Day

World Toilet Day - Tuesday, November 19, 2024

Cause Educational Health
November 19 was designated as World Toilet Day by the United Nations General Assembly, and is coordinated every year by a partnership between UN-Water and governments around the world. Today, we talk about the one invention that’s kept hidden behind closed doors, but is undeniably important. So if you’d like an “ode to the commode” read ahead.

World Toilet Day…at first glance, this seems like an unlikely candidate for a holiday and more like some sort of joke, but the day is nowhere as trivial or humorous as it may seem. All in all, it strives to draw attention to various sanitation issues around the world and work towards resolving them. 

Despite access to proper sanitation being declared a basic human right, one in three people across the globe, so some 2.5 billion people in total, do not have regular access to a toilet. Additionally, even amongst those who do have such access, unclean and unsafe toilets pose problems of their own, including contributing towards the spread of diseases like cholera, typhoid and hepatitis—in some parts of Africa, diarrhoea is one of the main child-killers.

Open defecation is also responsible for increasing the number of sexual assaults perpetrated on women and children. Furthermore, when young girls begin menstruating, the lack of privacy forces them to stay home from school, thus limiting their chances of getting a basic education and, what comes after that, a decent job in the future. World Toilet Day’s ultimate goal is to allow everyone on the planet to take care of their most basic needs without having to fear for their safety.

History of World Toilet Day

World Toilet Day was created by the World Toilet Organization in 2001. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations said: “We have a moral imperative to end open defecation and a duty to ensure women and girls are not at risk of assault and rape simply because they lack a sanitation facility.” 

He went on to talk about how having to defecate openly infringes on human safety and dignity, and how women and girls risk rape and abuse as they wait until night falls to relieve themselves because they lack of access to a toilet that offers privacy. Another issue is that toilets generally remain inadequate for populations with special needs, such as the disabled and elderly. 

Since its inception, World Toilet Day has played a vital role in challenging governments, businesses and other groups to make changes. It has also worked towards breaking various taboos surrounding the topic, in order to facilitate discussion and lead to the creation of better, safer solutions.

How to celebrate World Toilet Day

I think by now it’s been made abundantly clear that World Toilet Day is far from being a joke, dealing instead with the protection of one of humanity’s most basic rights. So how can you help? There are a number of things you could do. For starters, why not visit the World Toilet Day website, Facebook page or Twitter account and share the message across social media platforms?

This may seem like a tiny, unimportant gesture, but raising awareness about serious problems is one of the things social media does best, aside from bombarding you with pictures of babies and kittens. The more people know about a problem, the more money can be raised to fight it, as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge so perfectly demonstrated. So don’t think your clicking “share” means nothing. It doesn’t.

Another thing you could do as a way of observing World Toilet Day Would be of course to make a donation, so if you have the means, know that every dollar helps.c

History of World Toilet Day

Jack Sim, a philanthropist from Singapore, founded the World Toilet Organization on November 19, 2001, subsequently declaring the day World Toilet Day. The WTO chose “World Toilet Day” as opposed to “World Sanitation Day” for ease of public messaging, though toilets are only the first stage of sanitation apparatuses.

World Toilet Day was made to spread and increase public awareness of broader sanitations systems such as wastewater treatment, stormwater management, and hand washing. Goal 6 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals calls for adequate sanitation, which includes the system assuring that waste is safely processed. Their efforts to call attention to the sanitation crises were strengthened in 2010 when the right to water and sanitation was officially declared a human right by the UN.

In 2013, a joint effort between the Government of Singapore and the World Toilet Organization led to Singapore’s first UN resolution called “Sanitation for All.” This resolution called for the collective action to end the world sanitation crises. As a result, World Toilet Day was declared an official UN day and the resolution was adopted by 122 countries at the 67th session of the UN General Assembly in New York. During World Toilet Day 2015, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon advocated action to renew efforts to provide access to satisfactory sanitation for all, reminding everyone of the “Call to Action on Sanitation” which was launched in 2013 and aimed to end open defecation by 2025.

World Toilet Day timeline


It's official

World Toilet Day was declared an official UN day


A challenge issued

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation issued the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, asking innovators design a waste-free commode in order to reconsider how we flush.


Sanitary Rights

The UN declared the right to water and sanitation a human right.  


WTO founded

The World Toilet Organization was founded by Jack Sim in Singapore.

World Toilet Day FAQs

What is the purpose of World Toilet Day?

The purpose of World Toilet Day is to raise awareness about how many people in the world still lack basic sanitary facilities. 

How many people in the world have toilets?

About 74% of the world’s population has basic sanitation. However, 2 billion people still don’t have access to facilities such as toilets, and 63 million people still have no other option but to defecate in the open. 

What country has the worst sanitation?

India, holding the second largest population in the world, unfortunately tops the list for providing poor sanitary facilities to the common people. 

How to Observe World Toilet Day

  1. Read up

    As strange as it is to say, the history of the toilet, and plumbing in general, is a fascinating read. From the ancient Romans to the Middle East to John Crapper and today’s futuristic thrones, there’s plenty to learn about. And we're sure there's a joke about the perfect place to do said reading. 

  2. Post it

    With all the tact you can muster (and perhaps a quick clean before), post a picture of your own toilet to social media to raise awareness of World Toilet Day, with the appropriate hashtag. Or, use your internet search skills to track down some of the best toilets in the world, and share with your friends. Great view? Cool design? The perfect toilet is out there for you to find.

  3. Take action

    With the help and guidance of UN-Water and its partners, you can host an event to raise funds for the cause or simply to increase awareness. The official World Toilet Day website even offers a tool to help you connect with others hosting a similar event all around the world.

Why World Toilet Day is Important

  1. It raises awareness

    World Toilet Day is all about shedding light on a subject that is often deemed inappropriate. And while we don’t suggest documenting the when, why, and how of your bathroom habits on social media, it can definitely be a day to open the conversation about sanitation issues in the world. As the UN puts it, there’s a taboo around talking toilets, and it’s time to break it.

  2. It celebrates a modern marvel

    From the first flush toilet to innovations being made to this day, toilets and plumbing have changed the way we live. Now, thanks to recent advancements, consumers aren’t wasting hundreds of billions of gallons of water and billions of dollars each year. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notes that if everyone in the country used an eco-friendly plumbing system, we could save 3 trillion gallons of water and more than $17 billion, every year. Now that’s something to celebrate.

  3. It’s urgent

    Just like you after a Big Gulp, this can’t wait. UN statistics show that diarrhea caused by poor sanitation and unsafe water kills 315,000 children every year. What’s more, productivity is falling due to lack of sanitation and poor hygiene practices in workplaces in several countries, costing them as much as 5 percent of their gross domestic product. 

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