World Toilet Day, despite its unconventional name, holds tremendous significance beyond a lighthearted observance. It serves as a reminder of the millions of individuals worldwide who lack access to hygienic toilets, forcing them to resort to defecating in public spaces. This perilous reality has given rise to a severe health crisis of immense proportions. In 2015, the United Nations set a target to ensure clean water and sanitation for all by 2030. However, progress towards this goal needs to hasten significantly.
The absence of adequate sanitation facilities results in the tragic deaths of 1,000 children under the age of five per day, with countless others falling victim to diseases transmitted through contaminated wastewater. These pressing concerns transcend borders and are not limited to developing nations alone. In the United States, rural areas grapple with an ailing wastewater treatment infrastructure, as approximately 65% of the country's land is unsuitable for septic systems.
Drawing attention to the dire conditions faced by communities, Catherine Coleman Flowers has emerged as a prominent advocate for environmental justice. In Lowndes County, Alabama, a staggering 90% of households contend with inadequate water and wastewater systems. Furthermore, residents find themselves in a distressing predicament due to an inability to pay fines levied for their failing systems. The consequential result is arrests and added hardships. These issues disproportionately affect marginalized and low-income communities, underscoring the significance of sanitation inequality as a critical climate justice concern.
Toilet access constitutes a fundamental human right, necessitating a steadfast endeavor to address the pressing sanitation crisis both within the United States and globally. UN Water's main focus is on three pillars: Learn, Share, Act, which provide a solid starting point for addressing the issue of unequal access to sanitation. Inadequate sanitation is more widespread than people realize and its consequences are worsening due to climate change.
To educate themselves, individuals should assess the situation in their own communities and determine if this issue exists. To share their findings and take action, they can reach out to UN Water to report it. It is also crucial for people to inform their Congress members about this growing national concern in their area.
Addressing failing wastewater systems requires long-term, sustainable solutions that consider the impact of climate change. The problem of inadequate sanitation is multifaceted, with numerous contributing factors, including technical, political, economic, and social aspects. Hence, a comprehensive approach is necessary to effectively tackle this complex issue.