On July 24, 2013, the UN General Assembly declared November 19 World Toilet Day. “Everyone needs a place to go!”, said UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Ellison.”Today’s decision to mark World Toilet on 19 November will help raise awareness and mobilize action that can save million of lives.”
Access to sanitation is now seen as the missing link in global development.
The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were articulated in 2002 to mobilize efforts to meet the needs of the world’s poorest people. They form a blueprint agreed to by all the world’s countries and all the world’s leading development institutions.
The original MDGs, however, were silent on sanitation. The management of human feces was not discussed and, therefore, was simply left out of the goals. When sanitation advocates objected, the MDGs were amended. Target 7C is to halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. Clean water is a beautiful thing but you need to deal with sanitation and hygiene first.
Unfortunately, progress toward sanitation has lagged way behind the other MDGs. At the same time, international agencies have gradually come to see sound toilet systems as the heart of development and now unswervingly promote this formerly neglected sector.
The man behind it all? Our friend Jack Sim.
Jack Sim was key in securing sanitation among the MDGs. His passion is getting us talking about poop, its problems and promise. “When we are children, our parents tell us not to talk about [poo],” he says. “This is a really serious problem. What you don’t talk about, you can’t improve.” The Singaporean national left a successful career as businessman in his mid-40s to found the World Toilet Organization. Its purpose is to raise awareness about the 2.5 billion people without toilets and the result: More than six million of their kids die from diarrhea before they reach their fifth birthdays every year! One of the ways to get people across the globe talking was World Toilet Day, which PHLUSH has observed since 2007. Jack’s example and his motivation of grassroots activists, advocates and other players has helped articulate the issues and brought results.
So “Meet Mr. Toilet”. This 3:25 minute video which premiered at Sundance is a great introduction to Jack Sim. He was named a Time Magazine Hero of the Environment in 2008 and was elected an Ashoka Fellow in 2007. In 2012 he spoke at the Seattle Science Festival, an event in which PHLUSH participated at the invitation of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. During a three-day visit to Portland as PHLUSH’s guest, Jack Sim took part in three dozen visits and interviews and was introduced at his main speaking engagement by Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), a leading US advocate for global water and sanitation.