The first official UN World Toilet Day was on November 19. This day is meant to raise awareness of the billions of people who lack access to sanitation and toilets.

Why so much importance on sanitation?

Currently, more than 2.5 billion people worldwide lack access to toilets. This breaks down to one in every three people in the world. Additionally, one billion people practice open defecation- going outside without using a toilet. This lack of resources and education results in harm to infants and stunts the growth of young bodies and minds.

In India for instance, where open defecation is widely practiced, children are significantly shorter than children in Africa, who are much poorer.

According to the World Bank, open defecation practices threaten the human capital of developing countries. Poor sanitation and water supply result in economic losses estimated at $260 billion annually in developing countries.

Therefore, a sanitation program in India was introduced. The results of the program demonstrate sanitation services support cognitive functioning in children. Specifically, six-year-olds who had been exposed to the program during their first year of life were more likely to recognize letters and simple numbers on learning tests than those who were not.

Lack to access of sanitation and toilets also results in diarrheal diseases, which are currently the second most common cause of death in young children in developing countries.

Preventable diarrheal diseases kill more than HIV/AIDS, malaria and measles combined.

Furthermore, lack of sanitation and toilets also threatens the welfare of women and girls. Without access to private and safe toilets, girls stay home during menstruation, causing them to fall behind in school and at times drop out altogether.  Additionally, women are most vulnerable to being sexually assaulted when they go to the restroom. Without access to a nearby private toilet, women’s vulnerability is only increased when they go outdoors or in a public space, often late at night and away from people.

Due to the unglamorous nature of the subject matter, toilets tend to take the back seat when it comes to awareness and fundraising. “We must break the taboos and make sanitation for all a global development priority,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said.

World Toilet Day aims to change both behavior and policy on issues ranging from enhancing water management to ending open-air defecation.

Caressa Kruth
Sources: Trust, CNN, UN
Photo English Forum

Water is Life founder Ken Surritte was on a well-drilling trip to Africa in 2007 when he realized the limitations of using this method of providing clean water alone. After building a well for an orphanage outside of Kisumu, Kenya, Surritte was surprised to find that kids were still getting sick. The culprit was a “drinking fountain” at the local school which was actually a stagnant pond. Surritte wondered what he could give kids to take to school with them, and the idea for a portable filtration straw was born.

884 million people around the world do not have access to clean water, resulting in 6,500 deaths from waterborne diseases like typhoid, cholera, dysentery, E-coli, guinea worms, and diarrhea every day.  Children under five are at the greatest risk. In fact, diarrhea is the second leading cause of death among this age group in the world, and a child dies every 21 seconds from this preventable disease.

Water is Life is a nonprofit that works to distribute its WiL filtration straws to communities in need across the world. The straws, which are made of a hard plastic and measure ten inches long and one inch in diameter, come on a lanyard for easy transport. The straws use a combination of membrane filters, iodine crystals, and charcoal filters to purify water, filtering out harmful waterborne illnesses and particles as small as 15 microns. The WiL straws work just like an ordinary straw: users place the straw in a water source and suck, drawing water through the filtration components until clean water reaches the mouth. They can clean a minimum of 800 liters of water, and on average, a straw will last one person a year. The straws clog internally when no longer effective. These life saving devices cost only ten dollars each.

The WiL straw is just the first part of a comprehensive plan to provide sustainable clean-water solutions to communities around the world, and is meant to provide immediate relief to communities while longer-term solutions are sought. After straws are distributed by Water is Life teams on the ground, the teams get to work evaluating and developing a plan to provide a sustainable, pure water source within one year, using technologies like wells and point-of-use filters. Teams also provide hygiene and sanitation education in community centers and village schools. This unique “crawl, walk, run” approach allows for immediate intervention and long-term prevention of waterborne illnesses, saving lives now and in the future.

Water is Life has been hugely successful in the four short years since it began distribution of straws and implementation of its sanitation programs. The non-profit has worked in North and South America, Asia, and the Middle East, distributing over 60,000 straws in 32 countries, and has plans to grow the program.

For those looking to get involved, Water is Life provides many volunteer opportunities for individuals and groups, ranging from speaking at schools to get students involved with campaigns, to repackaging filters at the organization’s Oklahoma office, to traveling to help distribute WiL straws and other life-saving materials on the ground. Have the money, but not the time? Just ten dollars provides someone in need with immediate and long-term access to clean drinking water. Check out for more ways to help.

– Sarah Morrison
Sources: Water is Life, Oklahoma City News
Photo: Seasons for Life

The holidays are all about giving. Well, H&M, the young adult-geared clothing line plans to do just that.

According to H&M’s holiday mission statement:

“Water is a key resource for H&M and essential throughout our value chain. In our work and partnership with WaterAid, the focal point is to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene education (WASH) in countries where H&M operates. WaterAid is an international non-governmental organization focused on improving access to these basic human rights in developing countries”.

H&M’s support for WaterAid has been constant since 2002, and has helped over 180,000 of the poorest people in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan gain long-term access to clean water and safe sanitation facilities.

H&M customers can now help contribute to efforts for clean water. H&M plans to contribute to efforts to fund clean water projects through H&M’s specially designed gift cards. According to H&M executives, each gift card purchase helps fund WaterAid’s work in clean water projects.

For every 10 euros added to a gift card, the HM Conscious Foundation “will through WaterAid make a donation to help poor communities in Bangladesh gain long-term access to life’s most basic needs: clean water, sanitation and good hygiene”.

This year’s clean water campaign will mainly help Bangladesh. According to H&M executives Bangladesh is facing a water crisis. They have also explained that the crisis is not caused by a lack of water. Instead, “climate change and groundwater quality are posing greater challenges to Bangladesh’s access to safe water”. In addition, the objectives include:

Specific objectives include:

·        Delivering sanitation services which transforms low income, commuter and floating population.

·        Building public awareness across Dhaka of hygienic behavior, and the right to access public water and sanitation.

·        Advocating greater accountability from the authorities to ensure Dhaka’s population has access to suitable public water and sanitation services.

H&M executives are hopeful for this year’s turnout. If you or a loved one are seeking a perfect holiday gift, visit H&M and take part in the clean water initiative H&M supports.

– Stephanie Olaya

Sources: 3 BL Media
Photo: Become Gorgeous

Action Against Hunger Foundation
Indian prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi (Indian People’s Party) made headlines last month with a controversial statement: “Toilets first, temples later.”  A concern addressing the fact that almost 50 percent of households in India have no toilet facilities and defecate in the open.  Opposition to Modi’s statement ensued, however, with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad party calling it “an insult to Hindu society.”

Regardless of the reasons behind Modi’s statement or whether it was in poor taste or not, it brings to light the important issue of hygiene and access to sanitation in the developing world.  After all, India is not the only nation facing this problem.

A staggering statistic indicates that among the world’s seven billion people, six billion own mobile phones.  When it comes to sanitation, however, nearly 40 percent of the world’s population lacks access to a toilet, denying 2.6 billion people a basic human right.  Open defecation is still practiced by 1.1 billion people, with 80 percent coming from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.  Diarrheal diseases due to poor sanitation have killed more people than HIV/AIDS, malaria and measles combined.  The World Health Organization and UNICEF estimate that 1 million children susceptible to diarrheal diseases could be saved with improved sanitation.

In 2001, a non-profit organization known as the World Toilet Organization was set up to eliminate “the toilet taboo” and deliver sustainable sanitation to those in need.  The organization declared November 19 as World Toilet Day “to raise global awareness of the struggle 2.6 billion face every day without access to proper, clean sanitation,” and bring to light “the health, emotional and psychological consequences the poor endure as a result of inadequate sanitation.”

There is also an advocacy campaign called the Sanitation Drive to 2015, which was endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly and the World Bank’s Sanitation and Water for All initiative.  The campaign works to meet the Millennium Development Goal sanitation target by engaging community leaders and institutions, with support from governments and international organizations, to take action on the issue of proper sanitation.  They are calling on communities to keep sanitation at the forefront of development discussions, increase awareness about the importance of sustainable sanitation, and promote informed decision-making about funding for such programs.

On its website, the Sanitation Drive lists five key reasons why access to proper sanitation is critical for all:  “(1) sanitation is a human right; (2) sanitation is vital for good health; (3) sanitation brings dignity, equality and safety; (4) sanitation is a good economic investment; and (5) sanitation sustains clean environments.”

– Rifk Ebeid

Sources: AlJazeera, Arunachal Times, Sanitation Drive to 2015, World Toilet Day, Indian Express

Tayler Demontigny is not your average 6-year-old. Instead of sitting at home playing with toys or hanging out with friends, Tayler spends his time fundraising for clean water in Africa. According to, Tayler’s master plan for clean water in African countries happened over a bowl of cereal. One morning, Tayler asked his parents to save watermelon seeds so he could plant them in his garden.

However, his mom told him that he needed to live somewhere hot to plant the watermelon seeds. With quick wit, Tayler asked his parents to send all the watermelon seeds to Africa so that people in African villages could have watermelons. However, Tayler’s mom responded by telling him that Africa lacks clean water, therefore people there won’t be able to plant watermelons. The little boy then decided to come up with a plan to help African nations gain access to clean water.

His initial plan was to ship bottles and jugs of clean water to nations and areas that needed it the most. However, he then came up with a better idea to raise awareness. He proposed that everyone in his family walk around with clean water jugs on their heads in order to teach people about their project and gain more support. “It will teach people how hard it is!” Taylor said. With help from his parents, Tayler set up a website through The Water Project. He has also started a door-to-door campaign. Tayler hopes that the door-to-door campaign will help him raise enough money to build a well in Africa.

Thanks to Tayler’s efforts, 50 students and staff at Lasalle Secondary School now support the cause. The secondary students helped collect funds for the Walk for Water project. The students marched alongside Tayler, carrying large water jugs of water down Lasalle Boulevard and Barrydowne Road on October 18.

Because of his quick thinking, this not-so-average 6-year-old is now spearheading a fundraiser under the Clean Water Project. Tayler’s clean water profile summarizes his goals. According to it, Tayler hopes to “help raise funds to provide clean, safe drinking water to people who suffer needlessly without it in the developing world”. He has now raised over $7,000 for the cause.

– Stephanie Olaya

Sources: Northern Life, The Water Project

Oct. 24 marked World Polio Day, an annual reminder that the fight to eradicate the virus is not yet over. In fact, according the World Health Organization (WHO), children are still at risk, especially those living in the Horn of Africa, where an outbreak has been recently confirmed. There have also been reports of cases in Syria.

According to an article by the United Nations News Centre, the WHO issued a statement for the day, saying that “this is no time for complacency, and efforts must be redoubled to ensure this disease is eradicated once and for all. World Polio Day marks the perfect opportunity to remind us of this fact.”

Although there is no cure for polio, on Oct. 24, 1955, virologist Jonas Salk made his mark on history by leading the first team to create the polio vaccine, which is designed to prevent the disease. Along with the creation of oral polio medication, developed by Albert Sabin, these two medicines have been used to decrease polio cases around the world by 99 percent with the help of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), established in 1988. Transmitted through the mouth via the consumption of contaminated food or water, the disease mostly affects children that are five years old and younger, causing irreversible paralysis.

2012 saw the transmission of the poliovirus to numerous countries, such as Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. However, since October of last year, they have all succeeded in decreasing the number of polio cases by 40 percent. According to the WHO, the world is currently experiencing the lowest amount of poliovirus cases in history – but the organization has also declared the eradication of polio an emergency for global public health. This feat has created a sense of urgency within the international community to eradicate the virus once and for all.

In April, the GPEI unveiled a new six-year plan, the first of its kind dedicated to the eradication of polio. World leaders and individual donors pledged about three-quarters of the pan’s estimated budget of US$5.5 billion over the next six years. The UN Security Council has gotten involved in the mission to stop the spread of the disease as it called on the government of Sudan to lead a polio vaccine campaign in November, which would benefit children living in Sudan’s southern provinces that have been recently affected by the threat and outbreak of the virus.

– Elisha-Kim Desmangles
Feature Writer

Sources: UN News Centre, UN News Centre, WHO, GPEI, GPEI
Photo: Miami Herald

Soles4Souls is a nonprofit, humanitarian organization based in Nashville, Tennessee, that is fighting global poverty by collecting and distributing shoes and clothes to the world’s most vulnerable. It also  supports micro-enterprise around the world. Sole4Souls engages in direct distribution of these supplies and also creates sustainable employment by providing shoes and textiles for impoverished people worldwide to sell to their communities.

On October 10, Soles4Souls urged the world’s privileged to make a choice and live a day without shoes with the Barefoot4Them initiative. Sole4Souls hopes that by going barefoot, people can raise awareness of the conditions that the world’s poor have to experience every day and which will the serve to spread the word about the organization.

By completing an online form, those who wished to participate in the global event received a printable card with the story of someone who is living in poverty and who needs shoes and clothing. Soles4Souls stresses the powerful impact that can be made by “going barefoot, sharing their story, and engaging others to get involved.”

Social media is also playing a large part of this initiative, with donating $1 for every photo posted of an individual going barefoot with the hashtag #barefoot4them.

Thus far, Soles4Souls has received and distributed millions of articles of shoes and clothing and has provided for many sustainable micro-enterprise jobs that have helped those in places where it is very hard to make a living.

– Rahul Shah

Sources: Soles4Souls, Sports & Social Change, PR Web
Photo: Imugr

Chlorhexidine Maternal Health Infant Mortality Happy African Child
Despite declining mortality rates for children under five, deaths that occur within the first month of life are on the rise. Infections caught through the cutting of umbilical cords are a factor in nearly 13 percent of neonatal deaths worldwide and more than 50 percent in developing nations. A simple, affordable solution is presented by the antiseptic solution chlorhexidine.

Chlorhexidine has already been around for more than 50 years, and can be found in a variety of products, like hand sanitizers and mouth washes, both of which are available in the United States and Europe. The type of chlorhexidine that would be used specifically to treat and prevent umbilical cord infections is 7.1 percent chlorhexidine digluconate. It would potentially prevent over 200,000 deaths a year in South Asia alone. Up to 75 percent of serious umbilical cord infections are eliminated through its use as well. According to PATH, the cost of providing chlorhexidine would be less than fifty or even thirty cents a dose.

In July, the World Health Organization (WHO) listed 7.1 percent chlorhexidine digluconate on its Essential Medicines for Children. More instructions on how chlorhexidine will be used are coming later this year. Despite chlorhexidine’s supposed effectiveness, progress is slow to distribute it. At the moment, there are only two sources for purchasing 7.1 percent chlorhexidine digluconate for umbilical cord use: Lomus Pharmaceuticals in Nepal and UNICEF Supply Division.

PATH, the secretariat of the Chlorhexidine Working Group, is working to spread the word about the low cost and high effectiveness of 7.1 percent chlorhexidine in order to see it used in more locations and countries where it is needed most, particularly in African countries.

– The Borgen Project

Sources: Huffington PostPATHHealthy Newborn Network, Trust
Photo: The Script Lab

Out of the 7 billion people on earth, 780 million people don’t have access to clean water: According to the 2013 UN Development Report, around 780 million people lack access to clean water. In other words, one in nine people don’t have access to clean water. Next time you go to a crowded place, think about the fact that one in nine people don’t have the luxury of clean water! Without clean water, you can’t make food, shower, or even go to the bathroom. In fact, 2.5 million people don’t have access to a toilet because of lack of access to clean water.

2. More than 3.4 million people die each year because they don’t have access to clean water: Around 3.4 million people die each year because they can’t access clean water. 99 percent of these deaths occur in the developing world. Why are these numbers so high? According to, 2.5 billion people lack access to sanitation and 1.1 billion practice open defecation. The lack of access to clean water, sanitation and open defecation severely increases death rates in children. The website explains that the numbers can be compared to a jumbo jet crashing every four hours.

Every 21 seconds, a child dies from a water-related disease. This statistic is incredibly high. Due to a lack of access to clean water, a child dies every 21 seconds. According to, this child mortality rate has diminished. In 2009, a child would die every 15 seconds. Moreover, reported that in 2013, three children would die after only one minute, compared to four children in 2009. Although mortality rates are decreasing, the numbers are still high. Will we ever be able to solve this?

3. Women and water: According to, “200 million work hours are consumed by women collecting water for their families. This is equivalent to 28 empire state buildings each day.” It is amazing how much work and effort people must go through to collect a little bit of water for their families in developing nations. Meanwhile, people in developed nations don’t have to worry about having access to potable, quality water. Although we might get an alert now and then about diseases in our water, those of us in developing countries still have water treatment plants, and septic systems which allow us to lead a full and healthy life.

4. Hygiene: According to the World Health Organization, there are things that the developing world can’t do, such as taking a shower, getting clean water from the tap, and using the toilet. In total, 1.2 billion people have no hygienic facilities. states that in regions which experience these trends, there are no facilities that separate humans “from their own excrement.” The amount of untreated fecal matter that these countries produce would be able to fill the Superdome in 3 days. In conclusion, clean water is essential to our health, economy, and overall standard of living.

– Stephanie Olaya

Sources: UN News Center,, World Health Organization