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World Toilet Day (WTD) is an official United Nations international observance day on 19 November to inspire action to tackle the global sanitation crisis.[1][2] Worldwide, 4.5 billion people live without "safely managed sanitation"[3] and around 892 million people practise open defecation.[3] Sustainable Development Goal 6 aims to achieve sanitation for all and end open defecation.[4] World Toilet Day exists to inform, engage and inspire people to take action toward achieving this goal.

World Toilet Day
World Toilet Day (WTD) logo.jpg
Logo of World Toilet Day
Observed byworldwide
Date19 November
First time19 November 2001 (unofficially) and 19 November 2012 (as an official UN Day)
Related toUN-Water (convener), World Toilet Organization (initiator)

World Toilet Day was established by the World Toilet Organization in 2001. Twelve years later, the UN General Assembly declared World Toilet Day an official UN day in 2013.[5]

UN-Water is the official convener of World Toilet Day. UN-Water maintains the official World Toilet Day website and chooses a special theme for each year. In 2018 the theme is nature-based solutions. Themes in previous years included wastewater, "toilets and jobs" and "toilets and nutrition".[6][7][8] World Toilet Day is marked by communications campaigns and other activities. Events are planned by UN entities, international organizations, local civil society organizations and volunteers to raise awareness and inspire action.

Toilets are important because access to a safe functioning toilet has a positive impact on public health, human dignity, and personal safety, especially for women.[9] Sanitation systems that do not safely treat excreta allow the spread of disease.[3] Serious soil-transmitted diseases and waterborne diseases such as cholera, diarrhea, typhoid, dysentery and schistosomiasis can result.


School children in Germany running the "Urgent Run" to celebrate World Toilet Day 2014
World Toilet Day 2014 "Urgent Run" in Senegal
Celebrating World Toilet Day 2015 in Pakistan

In 2013, UN-Water and the "Thematic Priority Area (TPA) on Drinking Water and Basic Sanitation" received the mandate to oversee World Toilet Day each year. This mandate is described in the United Nations Resolution A/67/L.75.[10]

In consultation with the UN-Water World Toilet Day Task Force, made up of UN-Water member organizations, UN-Water selects the theme based on that year's World Water Development Report and develops content for World Toilet Day communications campaigns.[11]

UN-Water manages the World Toilet Day website which promotes key issues and stories, provides communications and campaigns resources, and announces events and opportunities to participate.[12]

The overall World Toilet Day campaign mobilizes civil society, think tanks, non-governmental organizations, academics, corporations and the general public to participate in the associated social media and communications campaigns.[13] Ultimately, the aim is to encourage organizations and governments to plan activities and action on sanitation issues to make progress on Sustainable Development Goal 6.[12]

Annual themesEdit

Leading "The Big Squat" during the Singapore "Urgent Run" 2016 is Jack Sim, front row left, founder of World Toilet Organization.

Starting in 2012, World Toilet Day themes were selected for each year and form the basis of the related communications campaigns. Since 2016, the same overall annual theme has been used for both World Toilet Day and World Water Day, based on the World Water Development Report.

Examples of activities and eventsEdit

Urgent RunEdit

In the lead-up to World Toilet Day, communities worldwide come together for sanitation-themed "Urgent Runs". More than 63 events were held in 42 countries. Events included fun runs, awareness walks, toilet cleaning programs, carnivals and even motorbike parades.[21] Organizers unite communities around the world to raise awareness of the global sanitation challenge and engage people with sanitation issues in their local communities.[21] Community groups, private companies, universities and NGOs plan events all over the world. Countries participating include: Bangladesh, Benin, Bhutan, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, China, Congo-Brazzaville, France, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, India,[22] Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, Mongolia, Mozambique, Namibia, Netherlands, Pakistan, Philippines, Senegal, Tanzania, United States and Vietnam.[23][21]

Launch of reportsEdit

Some organizations launch toilet-related (or sanitation-related) reports on World Toilet Day. For example:

  • WHO, UNICEF and USAID (2015) "Improving Nutrition Outcomes with Better Water, Sanitation and Hygiene: Practical Solutions for Policies and Programmes"[24]
  • The International Labour Office (ILO) (2016) "WASH@Work: self-training handbook[25]
  • The Toilet Board Coalition (2017) "Sanitation Economy"[26]
  • Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) (2017) "Guide to strengthening the enabling environment for faecal sludge management"[27]

Public educationEdit

Members of the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA) used the momentum around World Toilet Day in 2017 to update Wikipedia articles on WASH-related topics.[28] This contributes to public education about the sanitation crisis.[29]

The documentary "Follow the Flush," released 19 November 2017, educates people about what happens beneath the streets of New York City after a person flushes a toilet in Manhattan.[30]

2018 eventsEdit

Planned events for World Toilet Day 2018 include diverse activities such as a 'hackathon' in Ghana to promote digital solutions[31], a seminar hosted by Engineers without Borders in Denmark[32], a screening and discussion of the Bollywood movie Toilet: Ek Prem Katha (in English - Toilet: A Love Story) in Canada[33], and a school drawing competition in India[34].[13]


In 2016, the World Toilet Day campaign and related publications reached millions of people through social media, dedicated websites and other channels.[35]:21 Over 100 events in 40 countries were registered on the World Toilet Day website in both 2016 and in 2017.[35]:23[36]:17 The UN-Water Annual Report states that in 2017 the hashtag #WorldToiletDay had a maximum potential reach of around 750 million people on social media.[36]:17


World Toilet Day officially declared in 2013 at the 67th session of the UN General Assembly in New York.

On 19 November 2001, the World Toilet Organization (WTO) was founded by Jack Sim, a philanthropist from Singapore. He subsequently declared 19 November as World Toilet Day.[37]

The WTO later the UN chose the name "World Toilet Day" and not "World Sanitation Day" for ease of public messaging. In fact, toilets are only the first stage of sanitation systems.[38] World Toilet Day events and public awareness campaigns increase public awareness of the broader sanitation systems that include wastewater treatment, fecal sludge management, municipal solid waste management, stormwater management, hygiene, and handwashing. Also, the UN Sustainable Development Goals call for more than just toilets. Goal 6 calls for adequate sanitation, which includes the whole system for assuring that waste is safely processed.[4]

The WTO began pushing for global recognition for World Toilet Day and, in 2007, the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA) began to actively support World Toilet Day, too.[39] Their efforts to raise attention for the sanitation crisis were bolstered in 2010 when the human right to water and sanitation was officially declared a human right by the UN.[2]

In 2013, a joint initiative between the Government of Singapore and the World Toilet Organization led to Singapore's first UN resolution, named "Sanitation for All". The resolution calls for collective action to end the world's sanitation crisis. World Toilet Day was declared an official UN day in 2013. That resolution was adopted by 122 countries at the 67th session of the UN General Assembly in New York.[40]

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) replaced the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2016. On World Toilet Day on 19 November 2015, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged broad action to renew efforts to provide access to adequate sanitation for all. He reminded everyone of the "Call to Action on Sanitation" which was launched in 2013, and the aim to end open defecation by 2025.[41] He also said: “By many accounts, sanitation is the most-missed target of the Millennium Development Goals."[41]

The UN Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, was honored on World Toilet Day in 2016 in New York for his deep commitment to breaking the sanitation taboo.[35]:23 For example, he had delivered a video message to attendees of a WaterAid and Unilever joint event in the European Parliament on World Toilet Day 2014.[42] In 2016, UN-Water supported “A Toast for Toilets” in New York with the United Nations Mission of Singapore.[35]:23


Child defecating in a canal in the slum of Gege in the city of Ibadan, Nigeria

Worldwide, 4.5 billion people live without "safely managed sanitation".[3] Around 892 million people worldwide practise open defecation. Of those, 678 million live in just seven countries. India had the highest number of people (about 525 million) practising open defecation in 2015.[3] Having to defecate in the open is especially difficult for women and girls. Women tend to resort to the cover of darkness to give them more privacy, but then risk being attacked when alone at night.[9][43]

It has been estimated that 58% of all cases of diarrhea worldwide in 2015 were caused by unsafe water, poor sanitation and poor hygiene practices, such as inadequate handwashing.[44] This resulted in half a million children under the age of five dying from diarrhea per year.[45] Providing sanitation has been estimated to lower the odds of children suffering diarrhea by 7–17%, and under-five mortality by 5–20%.[46]

The Human Right to Water and Sanitation was recognized as a human right by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly on 28 July 2010. Lack of access to sanitation (toilets) has an impact on public health, dignity, and safety.[9] The spread of many diseases (e.g. soil-transmitted helminthiasis, diarrhea, schistosomiasis) and stunted growth in children is directly related to people being exposed to human feces because toilets are either not available or not used.

Sustainable Development Goal 6 aims to provide sanitation for all.[3]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "What is World Toilet Day?". World Toilet Day. Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Call to action on UN website" (PDF). Retrieved 19 October 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e f WHO and UNICEF (2017) Progress on Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene: 2017 Update and SDG Baselines. Geneva: World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 2017
  4. ^ a b "Goal 6: Ensure access to water and sanitation for all". United Nations. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  5. ^ "World Toilet Day 19 November - Background". United Nations. Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  6. ^ a b "World Water Development Report 2017". UN-Water. Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  7. ^ a b UN-Water (2016) World Water Development Report 2016: Water and jobs, Geneva, Switzerland
  8. ^ a b "World Toilet Day Website - About (2015)". Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  9. ^ a b c Cavill, Sue. "Violence, gender and WASH: A practitioner's toolkit: Making Water, Sanitation and hygiene safer through improved programming and services". WaterAid, SHARE Research Consortium. Retrieved 7 October 2015.
  10. ^ "UN resolution A/67/L.75" (PDF). United Nations. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  11. ^ "UN-Water's Campaigns". UN-Water (United Nations). Retrieved 19 November 2018.
  12. ^ a b c "World Toilet Day 2018". UN-Water. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  13. ^ a b "World Toilet Day 2018 Events". UN Water. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  14. ^ "United Nations World Water Development Report". Unesco. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  15. ^ UN-Water (2018) World Water Development Report 2018: Nature-based Solutions for Water, Geneva, Switzerland
  16. ^ "World Toilet Day Website - Theme (2017)". Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  17. ^ "World Toilet Day website 2016".
  18. ^ Gjersoe, Nathalia (20 November 2014). "World Toilet Day. Yuck!". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 August 2015.
  19. ^ "World Toilet Day website 2014".
  20. ^ "Dies irae". The Economist. 24 November 2012.
  21. ^ a b c "What's the urgency?". The Urgent Run. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  22. ^ "The Urgent Run to address sanitation problems in Delhi". NewsGram. 2 November 2015. Retrieved 13 April 2017.
  23. ^ "More than 2,000 young people run urgently because of clean toilets". Electronic newspaper Vietnam Education. 15 November 2015. Retrieved 13 April 2017.
  24. ^ Improving nutrition outcomes with better water, sanitation and hygiene: practical solutions for policies and programmes. 1.Nutrition Disorders – etiology. 2.Water Quality. 3.Sanitation. 4.Hygiene. Health. 5.Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice (PDF). World Health Organization, UNICEF, USAID. 2015. ISBN 978 92 4 156510 3.
  25. ^ WASH@Work: a Self-Training Handbook (PDF). Geneva: International Labour Office. 2016. ISBN 9789221285236.
  26. ^ Introducing the Sanitation Economy (PDF). Toilet Board Coalition. 2017.
  27. ^ "Guide to strengthening the enabling environment for faecal sludge management". Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor. 17 November 2017. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
  28. ^ "Meet up on Wikipedia!". World Toilet Day (UN Water). Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  29. ^ "Join the SuSanA Sanitation Wikipedia project". Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI). 10 October 2017. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  30. ^ Mangu-Ward, Karina (16 November 2017). "Follow the Flush". The Poop Project. Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  31. ^ "World Toilet Day Hackathon". UN Water. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  32. ^ "Open seminar by Engineers without boarders". UN Water. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  33. ^ "Film screening Toilet: a love story". UN Water. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  34. ^ "Draw a world without toilets, India". UN Water. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  35. ^ a b c d Annual Report UN-Water 2016. Geneva, Switzerland: UN-Water. 2016.
  36. ^ a b Annual Report UN-Water 2017. Geneva, Switzerland: UN-Water. 2017.
  37. ^ "Don't Laugh: World Toilet Day Aims to Promote Sanitation, Rid World of Disease". Fox News. 19 November 2008.
  38. ^ Tilley, Elizabeth; Ulrich, Lukas; Lüthi, Christoph; Reymond, Philippe; Zurbrügg, Chris (2014). Compendium of Sanitation Systems and Technologies (2nd ed.). Duebendorf, Switzerland: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag). ISBN 978-3-906484-57-0.
  39. ^ Gröber, K., McCreary, C., Kappauf, L., Panzerbieter, T., Rück, J. (2012). Public awareness raising and sanitation marketing – Factsheet of Working Group 9b. Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA)
  40. ^ World Toilet Organisation: World Toilet Day. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  41. ^ a b "Marking World Toilet Day, UN urges 'open, frank' discussion on importance of hygiene and sanitation". 19 November 2015. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  42. ^ "A message from the UN Deputy Secretary-General on World Toilet Day 2014". 17 November 2014. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  43. ^ Lennon, Shirley (November 2011). "Fear and anger: Perceptions of risks related to sexual violence against women linked to water and sanitation in Delhi, India". SHARE (Sanitation and Hygiene Applied Research for Equity) and WaterAid, UK. Retrieved 7 October 2015.
  44. ^ Prüss-Ustün, Annette; Bartram, Jamie; Clasen, Thomas; Colford, John M.; Cumming, Oliver; Curtis, Valerie; Bonjour, Sophie; Dangour, Alan D.; De France, Jennifer; Fewtrell, Lorna; Freeman, Matthew C.; Gordon, Bruce; Hunter, Paul R.; Johnston, Richard B.; Mathers, Colin; Mäusezahl, Daniel; Medlicott, Kate; Neira, Maria; Stocks, Meredith; Wolf, Jennyfer; Cairncross, Sandy (2014), "Burden of disease from inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene in low- and middle-income settings: a retrospective analysis of data from 145 countries", Tropical Medicine, 19 (8): 894–905, doi:10.1111/tmi.12329, PMC 4255749, PMID 24779548
  45. ^ UNICEF: Ending Child Deaths from Pneumonia and Diarrhoea (PDF), 2015, retrieved 20 March 2017
  46. ^ Gunther, Isabel; Fink, Gunther (April 2010). "Water, Sanitation and Children's Health Evidence from 172 DHS Surveys" (PDF). The World Bank Development Economics Prospects Group (5275). Retrieved 7 October 2015.

External linksEdit

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