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World Toilet Day: a wastewater partnership

19 Nov 2017

By Catarina de Albuquerque, SWA Executive Chair


On World Toilet Day, of course we turn our attention to toilets – flush toilets, pit latrines, composting toilets, you name it, and what we can do to make sure that the more than 2 billion people in the world without a toilet get one, soon. Today, however, I don’t want to talk about the container of all our bodily wastes. No. This World Toilet Day, I am not asking you just to think of the toilet, I would like you to think about what happens next, after you have done your business, after you have flushed that unwanted matter away from your bathroom, your house, your street, your sight, your consciousness.

This year, the focus of World Toilet Day is on WASTEWATER, meaning the waste, whether liquid or solid, that you flush down the loo. The solid part – the faecal matter – is the part that causes health problems – so the transportation and disposal of this waste is as important a service for us, for the cities, towns and villages we live in, as the toilets we sit on.

In too many countries of the world, faecal waste is not transported or treated at all, or not in an adequate way, leaving many people at risk of disease and prolonged sickness. Children who regularly get sick are at greater risk of malnutrition which hurts their physical and mental development, impacting their whole lives.

At SWA we stress the value of our multi-stakeholder partnership in solving problems. It takes collaborative work between many different actors to achieve universal access to sanitation – and this must include consideration for what happens to our faecal waste. There are many different services required to ensure that all this waste is safely disposed of. Our partners work collaboratively to find the best way to get better services to those who need them.

This includes working with the government to prioritize budget allocations for the relevant hardware, for maintenance as for construction, for the necessary software, including adequate laws and regulations, training, capacity building and monitoring activities. Civil society partners support the government through identifying need, as well as by holding service providers and government to account for the services that they work to provide.

Universities and other learning institutions support the partnership with the necessary research to identify where faecal waste is going untreated, and work with service providers to find the best solutions.

Only in partnership can we achieve what we set out to do – Sanitation and Water for All.