World Toilet Day: Working Together for Sanitation Coverage
Every year SOIL is thrilled to celebrate one of our favorite holidays, World Toilet Day, as a chance to share the importance of sanitation, and the urgency of fighting to ensure safe sanitation access across the globe. This year, we spent the day engaging with people in Pister, a community in northern Haiti during a World Toilet Day event.
In particular, we dug into one question: What do toilets have to do with jobs? SOIL’s Deputy Regional Director Emmanuel Antoine connected the dots, saying: “The workplace in Haiti is a place that too often neglects the question of sanitation. Toilets in the workplace are an important part of a strong economy, and access to toilets in general makes the population healthier and ready to contribute to the important work that is being done in our country.”
To bring this reality home for the residents of rural Pister, Emmanuel talked about the concept of konbit, the Haitian system of working together in collaboration to complete a task – frequently an agricultural or farming task. Being a part of konbit brings pride for communities and families throughout Haiti. Without taking away from this appreciation, Emmanuel asked if people have access to a toilet when they are working as part of a konbit. “No” was murmured across the crowd. The unfortunate reality is that people do not normally have access to a toilet in situations like this.
“When someone in the konbit goes by the river to take care of his needs, someone downstream might be bathing or gathering water to cook.” This lack of access to sanitation can have a deleterious impact on public health, and is a significant contributor to the spread of waterborne diseases like cholera and diarrhea. Prioritizing investment in sanitation for all communities is a necessary step to protect communities from the scourge of these illnesses.
Following this discussion, the residents of Pister were ready to take action: over 20 people who attended the event signed up to rent a SOIL toilet, known as “EkoLakay,” in their home. And, in normal SOIL style, we celebrated with games, music and dancing, and prizes. During fun community events like this one for World Toilet Day, it certainly doesn’t feel like work for Emmanuel and the rest of the SOIL team to promote sanitation, and we’re grateful to work in such engaged and active communities.