The dangerous act of defecation

Celina Siriyos

You’d never think of yourself as lucky just for having access to a toilet. But try living without one, like 13% of Papua New Guineans do.

Or perhaps try living without access to a safe toilet – that’s any kind of toilet that separates waste from human contact. Sixty-five percent of the Papua New Guinea population already do.  

One of the things that make providing safe toilets so difficult in Papua New Guinea is the high-water table and environments prone to flooding. In rural areas, where the majority of the population live, pit toilets are the most cost-effective option. Pit toilets are simply a deep hole in the ground, and they do the job, for a time.

But these pits often fill with water, contaminating the same soil that grows people’s food, or the water they drink. People get very, very sick. All because they can’t access something we take for granted; the humble loo.

In areas with a high-water table, pit toilets have a lifespan of about six months. That makes making toilets unsustainable and a burden – even though they’re critical for health and sanitation.

But if humans can build cars and smartphones, we can build a toilet that saves lives. That’s what not-for-profit, Sago Network, have concerned themselves with. Their aim is to save lives in Papua New Guinea by improving water, sanitation and hygiene at a community level. Their solution is a dry toilet which sits above ground, dries waste and outputs a sand-like substance. They’re light enough to be transported by canoe, banana boat or car and last about 15 to 20 years.

Best of all, these dry toilets can be made from a plastic mould, so a limitless number of toilets can be created. But first the mould has to exist – and it has to exist inside the countries where toilets are needed. Sago Network is one organisation that has set out to raise awareness of the issue and do something about it with the aim of substantially improve the life of thousand in Papua New Guinea – read more about their campaign and how you can support it. 

Shouldn’t it be a given that we all have a toilet?

More ideas like this