As Americans we take for granted the public availability of decent toilets. Over the last few weeks, I have traveled to China, Kenya and Rwanda. While not blind to the need for toilets, until these travels, I certainly needed a refresher course on the subject. Today, almost 2 billion people in the world will go without a toilet. They will be forced to abandon the dignity associated with the privacy associated with one. They will potentially have to defecate in quasi public places and potentially with others watching.
During my travels, a couple of folks in our group were put in position to have to use the bathroom in a field behind bushes, in relatively public roadsides with someone shielding them with a scarf or in a hole in the ground with bugs and lizards crawling around their feet. At least we had toilet tissue. At least those who saw it occurring while working that same field in Rwanda or laboring on the road in Kenya will perhaps never see us again.
Can you imagine the potential for disease associated with this daily humiliation? Can you imagine the loss of dignity with this daily occurrence? It's easy to say, "well they don't know any other way" or "I certainly wouldn't do that".
So here's the crazy thing.....solutions are available. Even where water is luxury item, technology to have a decent toilet or latrine exists. And relatively speaking, the costs are manageable for those willing to help. The answers lie generally in education and encouragement. At Blood:Water Mission we will work with our African partner Moucecore in Rwanda to help residents of Cyanika (villages on the side of a volcano) learn how to build shallow latrines in the volcanic ash. In Milimatatu in rural Kenya the solution is to use a basic concrete latrine base and surround it with local available resources such as tin sheeting, corn stalks and cardboard to provide privacy.
For now, I will try to complain less about rough toilet tissue or the power of the exhaust fan. I will appreciate more the privacy and availability of toilets in America and I will think more about what the term "Dignity" means when discussing the uncomfortable topic of bowel habits. Where did you go to the toilet today?