Toilet Poverty

Toilet Poverty and Its Impact

The term toilet poverty might be new and disconcerting to you, but the impact of this reality needs to be understood in the larger context of sanitation poverty. Sanitation poverty is when a person does not have access to a bathroom with proper waste management, leading to health conditions and possible illness.

We generally aren’t comfortable talking about a subject like this one  because we understand it to be a private matter that is taken care of out of sight. In developed countries, we know our waste is taken away from our homes and dealt with safely. It all happens quickly, privately and in a healthy manner. However, this uncomfortable the side of poverty is a reality that needs to be addressed.

UNICEF reports, “Among the 1.7 billion people without basic sanitation services in 2020, nearly a third (494 million) used no form of toilet and practised open defecation. In 55 countries, more than 5 percent of the population practised open defecation in 2020. Open defecation is most widespread in sub-Saharan Africa, but is also high in Central and Southern Asia as well as Oceania.”[1]

Though billions of people gained access to proper, safe sanitation services between 2000 and 2020, there are still millions who bare the shame of having no private, safe bathroom. The World Bank states, “Recent analysis shows that ending open defecation can save children’s lives by reducing disease transmission, stunting, and under-nutrition, which are important for childhood cognitive development and future economic productivity. Without adequate sanitation facilities, girls are more likely to drop out of school or are vulnerable to attacks while seeking privacy.”[2]

This kind of hygiene poverty is heartbreaking when you think of girls who try to maintain their modesty and privacy but are subjected to the shame and danger of not having a bathroom. Toilet poverty affects the individual, the village, a country and the world.

Janya knows these fears firsthand. She and her daughter would wait as long as they could in the evenings before heading out to find privacy. In the monsoon season, the mud would make this trek difficult for them. When it was dark, the threat of wild animals or dangerous men rose, making this ordinary bodily function all the more dangerous . It wasn’t just them though; nearly everyone in their village did not have a toilet.[3]

Not only were Janya and her daughter at risk with their toilet poverty, but the entire village suffered illness because of the effects of open defecation near crops and water sources. They suffered from conditions such as jaundice, cholera, polio and paralysis.

Local GFA World pastor, Vindur, was always doing what he could for the villages in the area he had been serving for 10 years, and many, including Janya and her daughter, had accepted the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. So when he heard that GFA had a way to bring a toilet to their village, Pastor Vindur went to his leaders and asked for four toilets to be built.

Janya and her husband, Lalan, offered for them to be built on their land. Soon, the villagers saw the structure rising from the ground. Now Janya and her daughter only needed to walk to the structure right there on their land instead of risking their lives. The villagers were so thankful to Pastor Vindur and the local church for helping to bring them.

“[This] saved the lives of people from illness,” shared one villager.

Not only are the toilets saving physical lives, but they are having a spiritual impact as well. The structure bears the name of the church, and when a visiting relative asked about it, Lalan gladly told him about the God who saves. Soon after, the relative had an ill family member. He decided to come to the church about 50 miles away because of what he heard about God.

Pastor Vindur met the relative and prayed for his family member, who was healed as soon as he got home. The man placed his faith in Jesus Christ.

To make this happen in more places, which is desperately needed, costs on average $540 to build a bathroom facility like the one on Janya and Lalan’s land. Your gift helps protect the safety of women and girls, protects the ground water of a village, and prevents diseases that claim millions of lives every year.

Consider giving the entire amount or sharing the cost of building one with a gift of $54. GFA even has a way to set up a fundraiser with friends and family to share the cost of this life-saving gift. Things like toilet poverty, dental care access and clean water can easily be taken for granted. They are things that are a natural part of our lives, and we are thankful. You can bring that gift to many more.

Learn more about how to fix illiteracy

[1] “Sanitation.” UNICEF. Updated July 2021.
[2] “Sanitation.” World Bank. Updated October 6, 2022.
[3] “Welcome to Their Toilet.” GFA World. Accessed December 10, 2022.