The Solution

So, how do we solve the problem of lack of toilets. You may be thinking, how can I possibly make a difference where I am? Sanitation is off track. We are years away from providing everyone around the globe with proper sanitation. The first step is we need to bring the toilet out of hiding and make a serious conversation about it. It’s all about human emotion and understanding human psychology. As weird as it sounds, we need to begin selling toilets as sexy.

smiling Flush toilet with hearts surrounding it

Photo from Dreamstime

People who have grown up open defecating find no harm in it. People are reluctant to change their sanitary habits. Even if you do build toilets in a community, people don’t always use them. They easily slip back into their old habits. Open defecation is a way of life. As sanitation guru Professor Sandy Cairncross of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine noted two decades ago by CNN, “For those accustomed to a contemplative squat in the open air in the cool of the early morning, who among them would choose a dark, damp, smelly and possibly precarious cubicle?” So how do you change someones behavior? You have to strike disgust in their actions and show them—through similar methods used in marketing—the appealing aspects of toilets.

Little girl making a disgusted face while holding a brownie

Photo from Flickr

UNICEF used disgust to change how people viewed open defecation. In one instance, they put out a plate of food and a plate of poop. When the people watched the flies go from one to the other they were horrified at the idea that they were eating their neighbors feces.

There’s a campaign in India which persuades young brides not to marry into families that don’t have toilets. It’s called “No Loo, No I Do.” By using social contagion the message of toilets can spread rapidly. Similarly UNICEF made a video for those living in India called, “Poo2Loo.” Measures like this one are often criticized as ridiculous, but we must use whatever methods work. This is an emergency of public health and safety but also human dignity. Changing human behavior is not an easy task; it takes time, energy, and funding. It’s your turn to decide whether to acknowledge the problem that is lack of toilets, or continue to flush as if it’s your right. By donating to, or fundraising for, an organization, you could make a difference in the lives of some of the 2.5 billion people worldwide that lack this basic necessity.