Eco Comment – A loo with a view … or a view of a loo?

17 November 2023

For over 10 years our family holidays were spent in a shepherds croft near the summit of a mount, half an hour’s walk from Aberdaron on the LLeyn Peninsula in North Wales. It was inaccessible from the farmyard and road in wet weather and provided a stiff climb for young children after a day at the sea, but the views were amazing! On a fine day you could see the outline of the coast of Ireland in one direction and over Cardigan Bay towards Harlech in the other; this was topped off by a picture-postcard view of Bardsey, the isle of 1,000 saints from the top of the mount.

The downside of this cottage was that it didn’t have mains water or drainage. Water was brought up from the farm in containers and was used sparingly. A visit to the loo involved a welly walk (the slugs were huge!) to an outbuilding and a porta-potty type chemical toilet. This of course had to be emptied fairly frequently. For several years this involved digging a hole in the nearest field until eventually the landowner invested in building a septic tank so we were still tipping and splashing but with less effort. Needless to say teenagers were never around for this task because, as they said, it was ‘Gross!’  

For many people this would be unthinkable but imagine if it was not an activity of choice but a sad reality of life. Today, there are 3.5 billion people still living without safe toilets and 419 million people still practicing ‘open defecation’. In these situations, diseases spread, killing 1,000 children under five every single day. This global crisis poses a threat to nature and everyone’s health, particularly women, girls, and other vulnerable groups. 

The 19th of November is World Toilet Day, an annual United Nations Observance promoted through a worldwide public campaign that encourages action to tackle the global sanitation crisis. With just seven years left, the world has to work, on average, five times faster to meet the sanitation target of SDG 6 – safe toilets and water for all by 2030 – on time. 

The World Toilet Day 2023 campaign uses the ancient tale of the hummingbird who does what she can to fight a great fire – carrying droplets of water in her beak. The story conveys the idea that each of us can take actions – however small – to help solve a big problem. 

The campaign also targets governments, companies and organisations of all kinds to commit to the Water Action Agenda, announced at the UN 2023 Water Conference in March, which is a collection of existing and new institutional commitments to make rapid change on sanitation and water. There are ways that we can help too. Alongside raising awareness we can sponsor a toilet and/or tap, thereby enabling a family somewhere in the world to have clean water, a toilet and a tap, plus hygiene education. Toilet Twinning funds global water, sanitation and hygiene programmes run by Tearfund. The charity and it’s partners work alongside communities, bringing people together in workshops and action groups focused on issues that concern them – such as farming and enabling them to build their own toilets.  

It could well be that you‘ve done this before. But, it’s likely that a pit for a household toilet will only last 3-6 years. For every pound that is given in sponsorship/twinning, 78p is spent on projects, 11p is spent on running costs and support and another 11p on is spent on fundraising. As ever, if you gift aid your donation, the charity gets another £15 for every toilet twin and/or tap donation of £60. 

So, is it time to renew your twinning? I think I must if only to remind myself that not everyone has the choice that we do about toilets and taps. You might like to go even further and twin your bin and even your fridge.

Susan Morgan
Eco Group

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