Article | 18 Nov, 2019

World Toilet Day 2019: Access to sanitation means dignity, opportunity, safety

World Toilet Day, celebrated on 19 November every year, is about inspiring action to tackle the global sanitation crisis and help achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, which promises sanitation for all by 2030. As more than half the global population still lives without access to safely managed sanitation, reaching the SDG6 target is still far off track.


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Photo: ©Shutterstock/Anton Ivanov

The theme of World Toilet Day 2019 is ‘Leaving no one behind’, which is the central promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This year, UN Water leads the campaign with the slogan: A toilet is not just a toilet; it is a lifesaver, dignity-protector and opportunity-maker.

"People are lifted out of poverty and disease when access is gained to sanitation and proper hygiene, and nature is safeguarded from pollution and contamination when wastewater and sewage systems are in place and properly managed. Investing in access to sanitation has far-reaching benefits, well across and beyond SDG6", said James Dalton, Director IUCN Global Water Programme

Today, 4.2 billion people live without safely managed sanitation, 673 million still practise open defecation and three billion lack basic handwashing facilities.This sanitation crisis means untreated human waste is spreading diseases into water supplies and the food chain for billions of people. Inadequate sanitation is estimated to cause 432,000 diarrhoeal deaths every year.

Logo World Toilet Day       Photo: ©UN Water
SDG 6, Target 2, sets to eliminate open defecation and ensure everyone has access to sustainable sanitation services by 2030, “paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations”.

World Toilet Day (WTD) 2019 is drawing attention to those people being left behind without sanitation and the social, economic and environmental consequences of inaction. Beyond the community, the lack of effective waste disposal or sewerage systems can further contaminate ecosystems which in turn impacts on livelihoods and contributes to disease pandemics.

The international community is called upon to expand access to safe toilets and reminds that sanitation is a human right. Recognized by the UN General Assembly in 2015, the human right to sanitation entitles everyone to have physical and affordable access to sanitation, in all spheres of life, that is safe, hygienic, secure, and socially and culturally acceptable and that provides privacy and ensures dignity. 

When it comes to sanitation, certain groups of people can be particularly disadvantaged. The following are often ‘grounds for discrimination': sex and gender; race, ethnicity, religion, caste, language, and nationality; disability, age and health status; property, tenure, residence, economic and social status. Where these grounds for discrimination combine, a person’s exclusion or marginalization can be compounded. Other factors, such as environmental degradation, climate change, population growth, conflict, forced displacement and migration flows can also disproportionately affect marginalized groups and their access to sanitation and water services.

Safely managed sanitation services mean the use of hygienic toilet facilities. Examples include flush/pour flush toilets connected to piped sewer systems, septic tanks or latrine pits; ventilated improved pit latrines; composting toilets; or pit latrines. Sanitation is a fundamental basic need. As the world of water drives further the conversation on innovation and new deals, sanitation has been left behind. 

Established by the World Toilet Organization in 2001, World Toilet Day was made an official UN day in 2013. UN-Water leads a taskforce of international agencies to campaign around a common theme.

Key Facts

  • 4.2 billion people live without safely managed sanitation – more than half the global population (WHO/UNICEF 2019)
  • 673 million people still practise open defecation worldwide (WHO/UNICEF 2019)
  • Globally, at least 2 billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with faeces (WHO 2019)
  • Inadequate sanitation is estimated to cause 432,000 diarrhoeal deaths every year and is a major factor in diseases such as intestinal worms, trachoma and schistosomiasis (WHO 2019)
  • Approximately 1.5 billion people worldwide are infected with soil transmitted helminths, which could be completely prevented with sanitation (WHO 2019)
  • 297,000 children under five are estimated to die each year from diarrhoea as a result of unsafe drinking water, sanitation, and hand hygiene (WHO 2019)
  • Children under the age of five living in countries affected by protracted conflict are, on average, nearly 20 times more likely to die from diarrhoeal diseases caused by a lack of safe water, sanitation and hygiene than by direct violence (UNICEF 2019)
  • One third of all primary schools lack basic sanitation and hygiene services, affecting the education of millions of school children, particularly girls managing menstruation (UN 2019)
  • 1.5 billion people use health care facilities with no sanitation services (WHO/UNICEF 2019)
  • The 70.8 million people who have been forced to flee their home as a result of war and persecution regularly face barriers to accessing safe sanitation and water services (UNESCO 2019, UNHCR 2019)
  • For every $1 invested in basic sanitation in urban areas, an average of $2.5 is returned in saved medical costs and increased productivity. In rural areas, an average of $5 is returned for every $1 invested (Hutton 2015)

More information on World Toilet Day can be found here:

The hashtags for 19 November are #WorldToiletDay/ #DiaMundialDelRetrete/ #JourneeMondialedestoilettes