November 19 was World Toilet Day.
Asking “Why Toilets?” the World Toilet Organization cites childhood mortality, women’s safety, and the rippling impact of disease from open defecation. Below, Matt Damon explains his support:
Where are we going? To why a toilet takes a village.
The Role of the Village
Described in a paper from MIT, eliminating open defecation is about more than toilets.
The MIT study focused on a sanitation project in rural India where open defecation was the norm for most of the population. Because the villagers’ sole water sources were ponds and open streams, they had pathogen-related disease from ingested water. Infected, they then transmitted the pathogens to each other because of poor hygiene.
This F-Diagram shows how feces are the entry point. Transmission follows through the fluids, fields, flies and fingers that infect the food supply.
Run by an NGO (non-governmental organization), the project required villages with strong leadership, universal participation and an initial sequence of meetings that took up to a year. The goal was to erect a community water tank and pipes, and in every household, three taps, a water seal latrine and a bathing area. The keys though were community support and timing. Sweat equity was invested before any subsidies arrived. And the project was divided into stages that required everyone’s 100 percent completion before a subsequent phase could begin. Between 1992 and 2006, 270 villages had completed the project.
Our Bottom Line: The Investment
In each village, sometimes taking more than two years from the first meetings to the last latrine, a carefully orchestrated sanitation project reduced severe diarrhea cases by 30 to 50%. One source of success was the project’s complementarities that relied on an interlocking network of people and equipment.
So where are we?
So yes, a toilet takes a village.