I suspect that your family didn’t gather last month to celebrate World Toilet Day. You would have visited a toilet, however, likely without acknowledging that it was actually a luxury that many in the world don’t have. Try to imagine, next time you flush, what it would be like to live in a community where no sanitation facilities exist.
Access to improved sanitation is something that we take for granted. In Canada, nearly all the population has access to some sort of private sanitation facility. I say “nearly” since, sadly, there are still some aboriginal communities who still struggle to have access to clean water and sanitation – hopefully something that our new federal government will finally address.
In cooperation with several schools and communities in East Africa, the Kingston-based, CanAssist African Relief Trust continues to help improve access to toilets and clean water in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. It is sometimes a hard sell to donors. Toilets don’t seem to have any charismatic appeal. But they are an easily-achievable improvement to well-being that can reduce disease, cut health care costs, give some dignity, protect women and girls from assault and save lives.
Here are some United Nations figures posted recently in the Globe and Mail. Many other sources have similar figures. Improving sanitation definitely helps individuals and the society in which they live.
2.3 billion people worldwide do not have access to a private toilet and almost 1 billion of those defecate in the open.
Over 300,000 young children’s lives could be saved each year by clean water and improved sanitation.
Children will lose 272 million school days each year due to diarrheal illnesses.
For every $1 invested in eliminating open defecation, there is a $6 economic return.
Worldwide, more people die from unsanitary conditions than from AIDS, malaria and measles combined
In 2015, CanAssist installed clean water, toilets and washing facilities in ten communities and schools. These water and sanitation projects will serve at least 3000 people who otherwise would have had inadequate or no facilities. We almost always have a project related to sanitation being implemented.
For example, CanAssist is about to start a new latrine project at the Kabuhinzi School on Ukerewe Island in Lake Victoria. Several volunteers from the Kingston area visit this community regularly with a medical caravan. Hopefully the addition of improved sanitation to this community will head off some of the bowel infections that occur without proper latrines. Prevention can be more efficient and effective than treatment once disease occurs.
Women and girls are particularly vulnerable when no sanitation facilities exist. Having to use open spaces and public fields when there is no toilet is not only degrading but it exposes women to the risk of assault. Teenage girls who have no school latrines miss classes for a few days every month because they have no place to tend to their menstrual sanitation needs.
Sanitation also includes accessibility to appropriate washing facilities. In many communities, there are no private area to wash or bathe. A hand washing opportunity near a latrine has been shown to be as essential and effective at preventing intestinal diseases as the toilet itself. CanAssist works to provide a source of clean water for schools along with latrines.
In two communities we have also built washroom facilities with showers from water drawn from the lake to an elevated tank. In Osiri Village, where we just installed such facilities, Tobias Katete, the Beach Management Unit chairman reports “ The facility is in use and now attracting even our neighbours who also come to bathe. Within the first month we have had 750 showers taken. For many, it is the first time they have had a private place to wash. More people are now using the latrine instead of the bush as it is close to the washrooms. We expect this will reduce spread of cholera in the community.” The community has formed a local P.U.C. to collect 5 shillings (6 cents) for use of the showers. This money will be used for maintenance and any necessary repairs. We are also soon installing a hand-washing tap beside the latrine to complete the sanitation effort here.
At Christmas and year-end, folks like to open their hearts and wallets to charities or to help others less fortunate. You might consider a tax-deductible gift to the CanAssist African Relief Trust. CanAssist pays no Canadian salaries or expenses and our Canadian administration expenses amount to about 5%.
There will be no doubt that your donation to CanAssist will benefit East African men, women and children directly.