Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Offering orderly ordure option...

WSP.orgOr, to put it another way: giving people a proper place to shit...and it's no joke although I challenge you to think that today is World Toilet Day without a smile crossing your lips (or imagination) but it's a noble cause. A new book by Rose George, The Big Necessity , tells it how it is and there are parts that are not nice. How many people in the world? Six billionish; how many people without sanitation? Well the answer is more than 2 and a half billion (2.6 BILLION)!!! Although things are improving. An excerpt from Rose's book:

"He thought that I thought a toilet was my right, when he knew it was a privilege...It must be, when 2.6 billion people don't have sanitation. I don't mean that they have no toilet in their house and must use a public one with queues and fees. Or that they have an outhouse or a rickety shack that empties into a filthy drain or pigsty. All that counts as sanitation, though not a safe variety. The people who have those are the fortunate ones. But four in ten people have no access to any latrine, toilet, bucket, or box. Nothing. Instead, they defecate by train tracks and in forests. They do it in plastic bags and fling them through the air in narrow slum alleyways. If they are women, they get up at 4 a.m. to be able to do their business under cover of darkness for reasons of modesty, risking rape and snakebites. Four in ten people live in situations in which they are surrounded by human excrement, because it is in the bushes outside the village or in their city yards, left by children outside the back door. It is tramped back in on their feet, carried on fingers onto clothes and into food and drinking water."
Graphic description to say the least. Much, much, more from Rose's book, and well worth the read, previewed HERE in the Slate Magazine last month, in which is the quote:

"Sanitation is more important than independence."
Mahatma GhandiBookmark and Share

4 comments:

Paul said...

An idea of how far we've come in the U.K can be found in Steven Johnson's book The Ghost Map which deals with the 1854 cholera epidemic in London. "The night-soil men worked in teams of four: a ropeman, a holeman and two tubmen."

The emptying of the cesspits is described quite graphically and the men had to drink a bottle of gin every two or three cesspits to get them through it, we are talking about cesspits that were full of night-sooil to depeths of two or three feet. 1854 is only four generations back from me in my family.

I remember the first time I went to France as a 12 year old and encountered the famous hole in the ground, at least France has improved over the past thirty five years. Closer, in chronological terms, I remember Bill Bryson describing Naples as a city where everybody shits in the street - I know he was exagerrating but it's surprising how many travellers first impressions are of the toilet facilities.

Any charity or project that helps the people without proper sanitation gets my support.

Span Ows said...

I agree Paul...well worth the effort! Focus on water and sanitation would save millions of lives a year. Naturally I have a few good tales of 'ablutions' during my myriad travels but none quite as bad as your comments on the job of cesspit clearing :-)

...P.S. hope you like my new embedded comments (new to Blogger...if anyone reading this likes it they can go to their own blog configuration page > comments and there is a new option for displaying the comments...)

Span Ows said...

Oooh...I liked that so much Im writing another comment! Much quicker too.

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