By Melani Manel Perera
COLOMBO – ‘World Toilet Day’ was observed on Sunday (19), focusing on the issue of accessibility and availability of public toilets. The issue is far from insignificant in Sri Lanka, with a research conducted by the Public Health Inspectors Association revealing that only one in 20 homes in the country has a ‘sanitary toilet’.
The theme of this year’s Toilet Day was ‘Valuing Sanitation’, emphasizing the intrinsic value of these facilities in improving health, ensuring dignity and also facilitating economic development. Despite the progress made around the world in recent years, according to the United Nations, some 4.2 billion people still lack access to safely managed sanitation, leading to the spread of disease and compromising overall well-being.
In Sri Lanka in recent years, the proposal to ‘reinstate the system of aid given to low-income people for the construction of toilets, and to intervene to guarantee this service in every school, had come back into vogue,’ explained W. D. Roshan Kumara of the Public Health Inspectors Association.
Noting there was an urgent need for sanitation facilities in Sri Lanka, he said attention to the issue was essential as only one in 20 homes in Sri Lanka has a sanitary facility, and that this leads to disease and pollution of the groundwater by sewage, especially in rural areas.
Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday (15), Education Minister Susil Premajayantha warned that 74 school buildings across the island were found to be ‘unsafe’ for students. The reasons include a lack of sanitation, as well as structural weaknesses, as in the case of a school in the Wellampitiya suburb of Colombo, where a 6-year-old girl was killed and several others were injured after a wall collapsed on Wednesday.
In spite of everything, the UN figures say that the situation in Sri Lanka is not among the worst in South Asia; in some countries, as much as 90% of the population does not have access to sanitation facilities.