Toilet Hero


Toilet Hero

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© UNICEF/UN039466

By Philippa Lysaght

Every day, all over the world, children are doing incredibly heroic things. Children understand the importance of toilets, and unlike adults, they’re not afraid to talk about it!

In many communities, children are driving change by demanding toilets in their villages or showing their siblings how to use toilets. Many of them are speaking up, and spreading the word about the importance of toilets.

These children are heroes, and on World Toilet Day, we celebrate them.

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Take Ram for example. Ram is 11 years old and is from Delhi, India. He is a toilet hero because uses his own experience of not having access to a toilet to advocate for toilet use in his community. Ram and his friends have a big task ahead of them, as almost half the population in India, that’s around 564 million people, do not use a toilet.

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In Nigeria, 12 year old Maimuna Idris is also doing heroic things. Maimuna is a student at the UNICEF‘s Safe Spaces school project in Muna Garage IDP camp Maiduguiri, Borno State. Like many children her age, she thinks that all people need a toilet for privacy, and to help stay clean. She’s right. Globally, there are around 2.4 billion people who do not use a proper toilet (improved sanitation). That’s about 1 in 3 people!

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Aila Mustafa is a 12 year old girl from Southern Punjab office. She says, “Being a toilet hero means telling people to stop defecating outside to reduce diseases.” Not only is she a hero for spreading the word, but Aila makes a very important point. Toilets save lives! We know that when people don’t use toilets and go out in the open, they spread diseases that are deadly for children: every day, over 800 children under the age of five die from diarrhea linked to unsafe water, sanitation and poor hygiene.

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Mawangi Nywage is 12 years old. She lives in Gambella, Ethiopia and is a hero in her town. Here she strikes a pose as Spiderman, and wears an inspiring cape. Like many other girls her age, toilets are important not only for sanitation and hygiene, but also for protection. Too many girls and women spend hours every day searching for a toilet, or waiting until after dark to go in the field or bushes. The long wait can cause both discomfort and illness.

All of these children are toilet SUPER heroes, and on World Toilet Day, we celebrate them and the contribution they make to create a cleaner, brighter future for every child.

These children are from five of the countries that account for over three quarters of open defecation globally: India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Pakistan. Open defecation is not limited to these countries; in fact, in 46 different countries worldwide, at least one in ten people do not use a toilet.

Whether you use a toilet or not, we all have a role to play on World Toilet Day. Join us in celebrating these toilet heroes, and others, by sharing their photos and stories along with the hashtag #ToiletHero.

If you know someone who deserves to be recognized, get them to strike a super hero pose, snap their photo, and share it on social media along with the hashtag #ToiletHero.

Philippa Lysaght works in advocacy and communication for the water, sanitation and hygiene team at UNICEF. She is lucky enough to have met a few toilet heroes during her career, and looks forward to meeting more!