Across the world there are communities whose consideration of “crap” is slightly more pressing than what type of crap is on TV tonight, or “where shall I dump this crap load of washing”. These are communities where they practise open defecation, and we’re not talking just going to the toilet au naturelle while glamping. These are communities where every day people are going to the toilet in the open, with no form of sanitation. Think what you will about the people who live in these communities, but the reality is that they simply don’t know that open defecation is a problem, and don’t know of the links between poor sanitation and health. An estimated 2.5 billion people around the world do not have access to improved sanitation. Up to to 3,000 children die every day due to diseases caused by poor sanitation. Parents of young children are unknowingly putting their children’s lives at risk.

Today UNICEF, in partnership with Domestos and Unilever, are launching a campaign to raise awareness of the work that UNICEF do to improve sanitation in these communities. Community Approaches to Total Sanitation (CATS) programme is a behaviour change programme that promotes good hygiene practices, helps create demand for access to toilets, and raises awareness of the sanitation crisis.

The CATS programme isn’t about building latrines, or handing out money to affected communities. In fact, previous programmes that have done so have often been unsuccessful because they have failed to stimulate demand for such facilities. The CATS programme aims to promote demand for sanitation at the community level. Through the use of simple, effective (and often shocking) demonstrations which explain the link between open defecation and disease, families make the decision to change their sanitation practices. The programme enables communities to raise the money needed themselves, and using local tradesmen, create solutions that are right for their community. The roots causes of lack of sanitation differ from one community so it is important that communities are empowered to come up with their own solutions, that are effective and sustainable.

So when you are Tweeting whilst sat on the loo (don’t pretend you don’t), or, more likely for many of my readers, listening to a running commentary of your actions from a young child, think about the parents and children who are at risk from lack of sanitation. And when you manage to lock yourself in the toilet away from your children yelling “I just want to have a poo in peace!” be grateful that you can.

If you want to do more than just be grateful you can donate to the UNICEF campaign here

In return, I offer you the International Glossary of Shit!

A note: I was not paid for this post, but I was asked to contribute by the company responsible for the campaign. I did so only after badgering the company with questions and reading the literature on the associated website, and because it I think it seems like a valuable campaign. Hope you think so too.


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