How Toilets Can Save the World

While scientists may regard penicillin or vaccinations as the greatest medical breakthroughs of all, Jack Sim claims toilets have done more for our health.

Do we really have the toilet to thank for being healthy?

“In the West, the toilet brought an end to epidemics. Toilets and hygiene have been shown to be the best preventive medicine. But London’s Great Plague of 1665 showed that the treatment of excreta is equally important. Today, hundreds of millions of people in rural areas and slums around the world still flush sewage directly into rivers.”

So health and development organizations must be jumping on the issue to solve this problem?

“Not really. When discussing solving poverty and diseases, experts don’t talk about sanitation, because they want to look elegant. After all, diarrhea is not a glamorous disease, so there’s no movie star helping people who die because of it. Meanwhile, it kills millions of people every year, including survivors of a famine or natural disaster when there’s poor sanitation in the refugee camps. We must understand that going to the toilet is just part of life ó a very important part of life that cannot be underestimated.”

But are poor people asking for toilets, or for food, water and shelter?

“Of course they don’t ask for toilets! That would be embarrassing. Besides, many generations have defecated openly and their neighbors do it too, so nobody dares to raise the issue. That’s why we need to break the taboo. Once people start talking about it, you create demand, so businesses can step in to design, produce and distribute toilets. We could build an entire new economy based on toilets. This way, change can happen very quickly.”

What will change?

“Toilets will improve hygiene, and then we can fight common diseases much more easily. If you don’t have sanitation, diseases will keep coming back. Really, toilets can save our lives.

By Marco Visscher, Ode


Ela V.
Ela V5 years ago

Good point

Heidi R.
Past Member 5 years ago

This is of vital importance. Thanks for raising the issue.

Harsha Vardhana R
Harsha Vardhana5 years ago

Thanks for the spread of awareness.

In many developing nations, a family has multiple mobile connections but no toilet. Open space is used creating a risk for themselves, others and environment.

People need to put their priorities right.

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W5 years ago

thank you

Michele Wilkinson

Thank you

Robert O.
Robert O6 years ago


K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Elizabeth M.
Elizabeth M7 years ago

Toilets, whether asked for or not must be made available to poverty stricken countries. Of course they would not be as we think of them...but it can be done and with sewage problems solved also. The other article of the art toilets was interesting...but really... put the money to an appropriate cause!

Brittany W.
Brittany W7 years ago

Well they can't just ask for a toilet they would have to have the whole sewage system for the toilet thing to work..

Merelen Knitter
Merelen Knitter7 years ago

So is there a toilet fund we can donate to?