On the blog

Thursday, 26 May 2011

A risky business – health risks of poor water and sanitation

A guest blog by Sue Yardley, Senior water and sanitation policy officer at Tearfund.

The squits, the runs, butt pee - the list goes on for amusing names for diarrhoea and I’m sure you have your own story to tell especially if you’ve travelled to a developing country. I know I try my best to avoid getting it when I travel with work, but I can be caught out by eating that nice bit of lettuce on the side of my plate or brushing my teeth with tap water. However, for us it’s often only an inconvenience. For others it’s life-threatening.

But last week I heard some good news. A critical decision was made at the World Health Organisation to better address the links between dirty water, poor sanitation and hygiene and health impacts.

It seems obvious doesn’t it? Of course there are health implications from drinking dodgy water or not having anywhere to wash your hands after going to the toilet. It’s common sense isn’t it? Well, yes, it is but it’s also a bit more complicated.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is one of the United Nations organisations and it does what it says on the tin – providing global leadership on health. Each year in May all the member countries of the WHO meet in Geneva to discuss ‘hot topics’ in health. The tendency in recent years has been to focus on vaccines to eradicate the many diseases that continue to unnecessarily rob the lives of millions of people. We’ve all benefited from vaccines; you might still have the physical scars. Vaccines are necessary, but they shouldn’t be the only solution.

At this years’ annual meeting of the WHO, which has just finished, crucial progress was made to highlight the need for preventative public health measures around clean water, basic hand washing and improved hygiene behaviour. At Tearfund we were carefully following the preparations for that discussion and were pleased that the resolution was ‘passed with consensus’ meaning that all the member countries agreed with the centrality of this issue.

Our next steps will be to ensure that the commitments made in the resolution are turned into actions on the ground as the progress and achievements will be reported on next year.

This decision at the WHO may not have made headline news, but it’s a small step towards preventing what is now the biggest killer of children under 5 in sub-Saharan Africa, diarrhoea.

Photo: Sue Yardley / Tearfund

Monday, 23 May 2011

How do you hang yours? A tissue issue

Here at Toilet Twinning we’re pretty passionate about toilets, and understandably so. Knowing that 2.6 billion people in the world don’t have access to a loo makes you appreciate yours that little bit more!

However, even with our abundance of toilets we’re still not happy, and there’s one small detail that provokes surprisingly strong opinions and even an evangelistic zeal to re-educate those who are wrong.

The issue? Which way you hang your toilet roll of course! Are you an over-hanger or an under-hanger?

A quick internet search soon reveals that this is an issue as old as toilet paper itself (well, as old as toilet toll holders anyway; here's just one example). There’s even a Wikipedia entry.

For some, it’s an inconsequential detail, while others will change someone’s loo roll if hung the wrong way.

Various ‘scientific’ reasons for the superiority of the one method over the other are proposed. These include, but are not be limited to:
Over – ease of access, increased ease of tearing, reduced risk of scraping the wall with your knuckles
Under – less accessible to cats and young children, loose end hidden from view resulting in a tidier appearance

A recent study has found that those who prefer over like to take charge, are over-achievers and stay organized; whereas under-hangers are laid back, dependable and artistic.

Of course, if you’ve spent much time in some other parts of the world the necessity for toilet paper is up for debate. But that’s a whole other question.

At the end of the day it’s a matter of personal preference and there is no official Toilet Twinning position. Just be warned that if you invite certain members of the Toilet Twinning team round to your house you may find your toilet roll has been re-hung according to their specifications.

We’ve seen what the science says but we want to know what you think. Vote in our poll to determine whether under or over is best.

How Do you Hang Yours?

Are you an over-hanger or and under-hanger?

(Photo courtesy of www.currentconfig.com)

Friday, 6 May 2011

A wee change can make a big difference!

We are really happy to hear that St Michael and All Angels Church in Diseworth, Derby, has twinned a toilet in their building. Even more so, that they launched their loo with a special church service!

The church praised Toilet Twinning's simplicity, saying that it has helped to increase their awareness of the rest of the world. The congregation says it has given them a stronger sense of their own worth, as they say small churches with few congregants can sometimes feel isolated and powerless to help those in need.

We are glad that Toilet Twinning has given this church an opportunity to make a difference. Thanks for helping communities in Burundi to build their own toilets, understand more about good sanitation and live healthier lives.

So a big thanks to the people of St Michael and All Angels church!

(Photos courtesy of: http://www.leicestershirevillages.com/diseworth/parishchurch.html and http://www.toilettwinning.org/)