UK Parliamentarians Talk up Toilets

Nov 20, 2012


Eileen Quinn
Communications & Advocacy Director for PATH's Center for Vaccine Innovation and Access


Did you see the blog posts yesterday (World Toilet Day) from elected officials in the United States reminding us of the importance of safe toilets for the health and safety of children and communities? Oh, that's right, there weren't any.


But in the UK, several Members of Parliament spoke out. Lord Eric Avebury blogged that “Absence of clean toilets and inadequate sanitation facilities are key causes of diarrhoeal disease, the second largest killer of children worldwide, causing around 760,000 child deaths every year.” MP Jim Dobbin wrote about his first-hand experience seeing the devastating toll of diarrhea when visiting Bangladesh and Kenya, and notes that “Aside from child deaths, diarrhoeal disease can have even more long-lasting effects. It can cause malnutrition which can be a huge contributing factor to stunted growth and can impact negatively on future cognitive development.”

Perhaps my favorite is a letter to The Times of Londonfrom MP Annette Brooke, Baroness Anne Jenkin, and Baroness Glenys Kinnock that begins: 

“Sir, The humble toilet is not a subject we're accustomed to hearing about in campaign speeches and political pledges. But with one in three women having no access to adequate sanitation, it's a subject we cannot ignore. We are therefore calling on governments around the world to make good on their promises to provide the world's poorest people with safe toilets and clean water.”

What's that old saw about Brits being stuffy and Americans telling it like it is? Turns out, these British politicians have the courage to call attention to the importance of several topics that can be taboo - toilets and diarrhea among them. They know that if we don't talk about these challenges, we will never rally enough will to defeat them.

Hats off to these parliamentarians for their candor. Here at DefeatDD, we know we agree: Let's Talk About It.

If we do, maybe then signs like this one (from PATH President Steve Davis's recent trip to Burma) will say Toilets for All.


-- Eileen Quinn, Director of Communications for the Vaccine Development Program at PATH


For more information:

-- Wanted: your potty pics. Raise your voice for sanitation and flush for a cause!

-- Who gives a crap? These guys do! Amazing social entrepreneurship -- and brave photos -- featured on the blog.


Photo credits, top to bottom: PATH/Gareth Bentley, PATH/Steve Davis.