1.7 billion

Not having access to a safe & hygienic toilet increases the risk of disease, abuse and creates major challenges for girls and women who are menstruating.

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Washing a toilet in in a refugee camp in Moniva, Kongo, in 2018. By Noregian Church Aid/Håvard Bjelland-

Friday November 19th is World Toilet Day. The day is marked every year to remember that 1.7 billion people don`t have access to a safe and hygienic toilet.

- This has enormous consequences for human dignity, safety and health, says Benedicte Næss Hafskjold, Norwegian Church Aid's Country Director in Lebanon and Syria.

Afraid to go to the bathroom

According to figures from the UN and WHO (2021), 494 million people lack access to a toilet. In addition, 1.7 billion people lack a safe place to go to the bathroom. A safe toilet is hygienic to use, private and safe.

- All people go to the bathroom, up to several times a day. What should be a relatively simple operation is for many people in the world, especially women, full of risk and many challenges, says Benedicte.

For many who do not have access to a toilet, the only option is to go to the bathroom outdoors. Benedicte tells of refugees she meets in the field, who do not drink enough water because they are afraid to go to the bathroom.

- Going to the bathroom in the open air involves fear that someone will see you, or even assault, especially for women and girls, Benedicte says.

Sick of unhygienic toilets

In many parts of the world, adults and children get sick from going to unhygienic toilets, where feces come in contact with the skin.

- If everyone had had access to good and safe toilets, the lives of the 297,000 children who die of diarrhea annually could be saved, Benedicte says.

Norwegian Church Aid works to give more people access to water, sanitation and hygiene. This work involves giving more people access to safe toilets, showers and sinks. In addition, Norwegian Church Aid works to provide women and girls with training in how to handle menstruation in a good and safe way.

Setting toilets and menstruation on the agenda

Dagfinn Høybråten encourages male leaders to break the taboo that still surrounds menstruation and toilets in many places:

- Today, the majority of the world's leaders with power and resources are men, and many do not talk openly about menstruation and the problems women and girls get when they do not have access to a safe toilet. Male leaders must talk about menstruation and toilets, which takes away from girls and women very basic human rights. We need to put these issues on the agenda.

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Toilet in Tuneybah, Sudan. By Odd Evjen.