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Access to toilets is a matter of life and death


In a world where more people now have access to mobile phones than toilets, it's time to make sanitation a global priority.

Monday November 17, 2014

Village chief Reinaldo Amaral Soares and Australian Red Cross aid worker Stuart Bryan review the construction of a community toilet in Hohorai, Timor-Leste.

In a world where more people now have access to mobile phones than toilets, it's time to make sanitation a global priority.

World Toilet Day falls on 19 November, a day marked by the United Nations General Assembly to highlight the urgent need for improved sanitation facilities.

Around 1.5 million people, mostly children, die each year as the result of poor sanitation. These deaths can be prevented.

Water, sanitation and hygiene are priorities for Australian Red Cross, from Myanmar to Timor-Leste. Working through National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies - and the communities they serve - we help families to access clean water and toilets.

Local knowledge and solutions are critical. We work with each community to find the best sources of water and the right places to install tanks, toilets and taps. Then, using sanitation engineering specialists, we design environmentally-appropriate systems with locally-available construction materials. The community usually volunteers their labour and eventually takes on maintenance of the water supplies and toilets.

Read why it can take six months to turn on a tap.

In places like Syria and South Sudan, we work with the International Committee of the Red Cross to provide basic sanitation for those affected by war and conflict.

How do you solve a problem like 80,000 people and no toilets? 

In South Sudan, Australian aid worker James Godbee turned shipping containers into emergency latrines to support a camp filled with people fleeing conflict.
"There are no simple solutions for any sanitation problems, really," says James. "The key is to incorporate the design principles of sanitation engineering and take into account the local environmental, logistical and cultural context."

Red Cross recognises that all families have the right to safe water and toilets. Your donation to the Red Cross Christmas Appeal 2014 can help prevent needless deaths in our region.

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