UN proclaims Nov. 19 World Toilet Day to promote sanitation

July 25, 2013 10:05 am 

UNITED NATIONS, July 25 — The UN General Assembly on Wednesday proclaimed Nov. 19 as World Toilet Day in a bid to foster the availability of basic sanitation services for the world 's poor.

"I am delighted and grateful that member states have adopted a resolution officially designating Nov. 19 as World Toilet Day," said UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliassson, a strong advocate of efforts to provide access for all to proper sanitation.

"I thank the government of Singapore for its leadership on a crucially important global issue," he said in a statement welcoming the General Assembly resolution. "This new annual observance will go a long way toward raising awareness about the need for all human beings to have access to sanitation."

While Nov. 19 has been recognized by many nations as World Toilet Day, it had not been recognized as such by the United Nations until Wednesday.

Eliasson said nearly 2,000 children die every day from preventable diarrheal diseases and poor sanitation and water supply leads to 260 billion U.S. dollars in annual losses in developing countries.

"Proper sanitation is also a question of basic dignity," he said. "It is unacceptable that women have to risk being the victims of rape and abuse, just to do something that most of us take for granted. It is also unacceptable that many girls are pushed out of school for lack of basic sanitation facilities."

"I urge every country to accelerate progress towards a world in which everyone enjoys this most basic of rights," he said.

The UN move came after Singapore introduced the resolution " Sanitation for All" in April, which quickly gained sponsors from more than 100 countries.

Singapore charge d'affaires Mark Neo was realistic to the possibility that a World Toilet Day opens the door for bathroom humor.

"I am sure there will be laughter among the press and the public when it is reported that the UN is declaring a World Toilet Day, and initiated by Singapore no less," Neo said before a unanimous General Assembly vote in favor of the measure.

"The amusement at our expense is well worth it if .. the world' s media goes on to report and the general public goes on to learn that 2.5 billion people still do not have proper sanitation, that 1.1 billion people still defecate in the open, and that ending open defecation will lead to a 35 percent reduction of diarrhea."

Diarrhea results in more than 750,000 deaths of children under five years of age every year, or put it another way, four children under five years old die every three minutes, the Singapore envoy said.

"The public will learn that without safe and private toilets women and girls face the threat of violence when they go out of their homes to relieve themselves, and that girls are reluctant to attend school if there are no proper toilet facilities," Neo said.

"They will also learn that every dollar spent on sanitation brings 5.5 U.S. dollars in return by keeping people healthy and productive, that poor sanitation costs countries 0.5 to 7 percent of their GDP (gross domestic product), and that the economic gains globally from investing in sanitation amounts to about 260 billion U.S. dollars per year," he said. (PNA/Xinhua)

LAM/RSM

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