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On World Toilet Day Don't just sit there...

Monday November 19, 2007

Think about it.

Think about what it's like sharing a toilet with other members of your household, and then think about sharing amenities with a few thousand people at a music festival.

Then imagine sharing a toilet with nearly a quarter of a million people!

That's the situation more often than not in refugee camps or other places where people have fled due to conflict or disaster.

While you sit down today to perform your daily ablutions, spare a thought for the 2.4 billion people around the world who lack adequate sanitation facilities.

And spare another thought for the four million people who die each year from diseases associated with contaminated water and poor sanitation, according to WHO and UNICEF.

Bob Handby, a Water & Sanitation expert with Australian Red Cross for more than 20 years believes dignity, public health and cultural sensitivity are the motivating factors for most of his work.

Bob's worked in lots of places: Tanzania, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Rwanda and Iraq to name just a few.

'In a refugee camp with thousands of people, it's not very dignified if you have nowhere to go to the toilet. It would be the same for you or me,' he said.

Often he finds himself 'chasing people around with toilets' as they run from mortar attacks. In Sri Lanka, he says, 'you'd just get sanitation at one camp under control and there would be a mortar attack and everyone would be off again.'

Around four million people die each year from diseases associated with contaminated water and poor sanitation and hygiene, while every year some 1.8 million children under the age of five die from diarrhoea. Together, dirty water and poor sanitation are the world's second biggest killer of children. Improved conditions could dramatically reduce this death toll.

Australian Red Cross funds and implements water and sanitation programs across the Asia Pacific region and many other countries around the world.

'From constructing new freshwater wells in East Timor to re-establishing water supplies in the earthquake and tsunami-ravaged areas of Pakistan and Indonesia, Australian Red Cross has been involved in helping the world's vulnerable people gain access to safe drinking water and better sanitation facilities,' said Mr Handby.