One Billion Without Toilets

This piece is about a subject we shun, open defecation, but the article it stems from touched my heart and I think it will touch yours. Andrea Bruce, now a freelance photographer was on a National Geographic assignment and her photographs on the subject of open defecation were on exhibit at a photo festival in Perpignan, France in early September. Yes open defecation sounds like a topic we don’t want to know about, yet what it means is important to anyone who cares about the welfare of others. It means no sanitation, no sanitation means, no clean water, and no clean water means diseases like cholera. Almost one billion people in the world today do not have sanitation, about half of those in India. Some actually have to relieve themselves in open fields, making them prey to being raped. Many have to use community toilets which as the article shows often do not work. Lack of sanitation means young girls drop out of school when they start menstruating for lack of privacy and facilities. In Haiti, the problem can be severe, for the lack of sanitation is pervasive and in some instances difficult to resolve. It’s easy to dismiss the problem, to undermine its importance, and certainly because we have an access to sanitation which we can essentially take for granted, it’s hard to identify with how the lives of so many are affected. But caring about what happens to the disadvantaged, the dispossessed, the forgotten, is one of the traits that mark our humanity, and the lack of sanitation certainly evokes that caring.