Toilet day? Of course!

public toilets in DRC

Toilet day and access to hygienic public toilets

TESTIMONYEvery 19th November, the world celebrates world toilet day. Why talk about toilets? In certain cities, there is still a serious problem of hygienic public toilets. And this could ruin our life in case of an urgent need!

An ordinary day outside the office

It is 11 in the morning in Goma. After some house chores, I get ready to run some errands in town. In the rush, I forget to visit the toilet before leaving the house. I visit boutiques and stores searching for clothes for my small family.

During my errands, the need to urinate imposes itself… The little boutiques along the street have no toilet. Sellers often find relief in the market’s toilets which are often dirty since they are not regularly cleaned.

Gradually, I no longer focus on my errands. Where will I urinate? I visualize the city of Goma in my mind. I manage to locate public toilets which are a thirty minute walk away. But in which state are they? It seems to me that they are not frequently used. Besides water doesn’t flow there.

Yes, toilets are important!

I become more and more uncomfortable. If I do not find a place to relieve myself in the next five minutes, I can no longer contain myself. What do I do then? I continue walking while thinking. I finally arrived at a hotel. There is definitely a toilet at the hotel’s reception. I enter the compound and go straight towards the reception as if I was late for an appointment. If I directly ask for their toilet there is a chance of being refused…

A quick good morning to the receptionist, and I continue walking as if I know where I’m going. Luckily, I see washrooms! Finally, a good clean toilet. A true place of convenience. I savor my relief for some minutes. I have been relieved of a heavy burden. Yes, toilets are important!

Toilet: an often neglected priority

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, 15% of households have no toilets. Only 18% of Congolese households use improved toilets not shared by neighbors of which 21% in urban areas and 17% in rural areas. The other households use unimproved toilets.

The city of Goma has a cholera epidemic and clean water is not accessible to all the inhabitants. The lack of public hygienic toilets adds up to this: only 6% of the population in North Kivu use improved sanitary installations! All the conditions are then combined to further the persistence of diseases linked to dirty hands.
My plea for hygienic public toilets in the city of Goma is not only aimed at competent public authorities – mayors and assemblymen – but also private entrepreneurs. The latter can build hygienic public toilets to which access comes at a charge in order to ensure services and maintenance. At least one person would get employment, the entrepreneur would get his profit and passers-by would get toilets to relieve themselves. And so, together we would preserve the environment and the health of the people!

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Translated from French by Adjah Benedict

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Cynthia Kanyere

Cynthia Kanyere est chargée de communication à l’UNICEF pour la Zone Est RDC. Sociologue de formation, elle travaille depuis 2005 dans le domaine du journalisme et de la communication. Elle est fascinée par les enfants, quelle que soit leur classe sociale ou leur race. Son credo : « Agis pour chaque enfant de la même façon que tu agis pour ton propre enfant ».

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