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Monday, 8 November 2010

Guest post: Lis Martin - Durham students help more people access toilets in Africa

2.5 billion people don’t have access to adequate sanitation. That’s a horrifying statistic and in July last year, whilst working on a water project with Tearfund in Kigaze, Uganda, I quickly learnt that daily life without a toilet is extremely unpleasant. In the community in which I lived and worked it was totally normal for women and children to walk for four hours a day to collect diseased water. Girls miss school, carry phenomenal loads and are vulnerable to rape. Without basic toilets people lack dignity and safety. But I also witnessed the transformative impact that taps and toilets can have. I saw first hand how improving water and sanitation is at the heart of tackling poverty and building a better future. There’s less illness, children can attend school and women can work.

However, despite another appalling statistic: 5000 children die each day as a result of waterborne diseases, many governments around the world are ignoring this issue. After witnessing the daily struggle of that community in Kigaze and experiencing life without a toilet for just one month, I am passionate that this issue be given the attention and the finance that it has so far been deprived of. That’s why, on my return to the UK, I wanted to do everything in my power to raise awareness of this scandal and what we, ordinary individuals, can do to tackle sanitation poverty.

That’s when I came across Toilet Twinning, a partnership between Cord and Tearfund that provides a unique way to help transform lives in poor communities in Africa and across the world.. As a student at Durham University, I asked the student union to pass a motion to twin a toilet from each college with a toilet to be built in Burundi, Africa. The motion passed unanimously and so the Charities Committee and I organised a rag-raid on the streets of Edinburgh. £600 later and we placed our order for 10 toilets. Last week I delivered the certificates – each with a photo of the twinned latrine – to the Durham colleges and invited the local press and radio to cover the event.

Toilet Twinning is guaranteed to give countless people in this country a memorable trip to the loo. Not to mention the impact that it has for communities in Burundi. It’s novel, practical and long lasting. I thoroughly recommend getting your family, work place, school, and place of worship to twin their toilets. To have so many people in this world without life’s essentials in the 21st century is out of order. Toilet Twinning is a fantastic way to save and change the lives of many. Trust me – you’ll never find more grateful recipients.

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