The United Nations General Assembly has set aside November 19 as World Toilet Day as part of efforts to influence policies that encourage construction of proper and enough sanitary facilities worldwide. In a statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently, World Toilet Day would aid behavioural change towards the use of toilets and influence policies.
“The resolution (by the UNGA) hopes that commemoration of the World Toilet Day will encourage behavioural change, influence policies to facilitate increased access to sanitation among the poor and to end practices that are harmful to public health,” reads part of the statement.
The UN resolution on Sanitation for All was adopted on July 24 this year.
It is estimated that about 35 percent of diarrhoea cases, which claim the lives of 750 000 children under the age of five years every year could be averted if proper sanitary facilities are put into place.
According to statistics, Zimbabwe is among countries with the worst cases of open defecation rivalling other countries like Democratic Republic of Congo and Liberia.
According to the Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey (ZDHS) 2010-2011, 69 percent of rural households do not have improved toilet facilities and of these households, 39 percent practice open defecation.
According to public health experts, in an area where open defecation is a common phenomenon, it is not advisable for people to rely on unprotected water sources as these wells are prone to contamination.
In such scenarios human excreta could be washed down to the wells or the water is contaminated by flies or through seepage.
This becomes a health hazard as it increases the risk of diarrhoeal diseases such as cholera and typhoid, hence the need to construct proper toilets.
According to the weekly report on disease surveillance from the ministry of Health and Child Welfare, 14 people died of diarrhea week alone.
Another person died of dysentery during the same week, which ended on October 6 while thousands of other cases were treated in public health institutions.
Cases of typhoid also continue to be reported throughout the country with latest statistics showing that six cases were reported in Chegutu district.
Since the beginning of the year, almost half a million of common diarrhoea cases were reported.
A further 1 428 of typhoid cases and 34 988 cases of dysentery were also reported during the same week throughout the country.
Diarrhoea has also claimed nearly 400 lives since the beginning of the year throughout the country while dysentery claimed 37 lives.