By Joseph Morales
My legs shook and my foot stomped impatiently on the floor as I waved my hand in a sad attempt to gain the attention of my teacher. I was in desperate need to relieve myself. Finally, after I received the permission I needed, I rushed to the restroom. I did what I have done for my entire life. I quickly used the toilet and then quickly forgot about it. Why should I give it a second thought?
The primary (and only function) of a public restroom is to dispose of human excrement in a sanitary manner. It successfully does this without us having to give it a second thought. Never, throughout the process, are we required to do anything more then push and flush. However, this is not a universal story. In 2013, it was reported that one third of the world did not have access to a functional toilet. That is one third of our world. Sure, that was nearly two years ago, but a problem of such proportions does not go away overnight.
Because such a large portion of our population had inadequate access to a toilet, diarrhea was the number one cause of death in children. Diarrhea! In contemporary times, diarrhea is the butt of our jokes. Yet we remain ignorant to the other parts of the world, where it is the leading cause of death for children. But the horrors of living in a toilet-less world do not end there.
The people plagued to live in rural India and parts of Africa often have no other choice but to practice “open defecation” or, in other words, pooping in the street. This forces women to gamble with their chances of getting raped or sexually assaulted. It seems pretty far fetched to believe that the presence of a toilet could potentially prevent a sexual assault, but reality is that if these women had access to safe sanitation, such attacks could be avoided.
Toilets provide a private place for men and women alike to relieve themselves. With this in mind, more public restrooms would help to keep more young girls in school, because they are especially vulnerable to sexual assault. While this does not directly affect the majority of young American girls, sanitation is often an issue in countries where public restrooms are unavailable. Sanitation during menstrual cycles is vital, yet the presence of something as simple as a toilet is often missing throughout the world. So with a problem so blatantly obvious, what is taking so long to fix it?
First off, there is no political incentive for leaders to provide any sort of sanitation aid to alleviate these problems. Poverty is also partly to blame because more toilets would need more funding. Places that have started implementing toilets have trouble “potty training” the people. As any psychologist will agree, human behavior is a hard thing to change. It is hard for people in these developing countries to understand why toilets are a health necessity. Concepts of disease and bacteria are new to this audience. Places in rural India and Africa have strong cultural norms that withstand attempts to sanitize the population.
Yet the importance of the toilet has not gone unrecognized. The British medical journal deemed the “sanitation revolution” as the greatest medical advancement of the twentieth century. This includes toilets. Toilets are the unsung heros of our time. The global sanitation issue at hand is something that we should be aware of, as the rising generation. There is a cure for diarrhea. Toilets deserve a second thought.