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Stanford researcher says World Toilet Day isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

Toilets serve Rohingya refugee camps in the Cox’s Bazar district of Bangladesh.

Laura Kwong
Nov 19 2018

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In the News
Few people like to talk about toilets and for Jack Sim, that was a problem. A Singaporean businessman, Sim realized that if people couldn’t talk about toilets, they couldn’t consider upgrading the public ones or providing new ones in places that don’t have toilets. In 2001, Sim created the World Toilet Organization and declared Nov. 19 World Toilet Day as a way to start both the conversation and the cleanup of public facilities with an eye toward improving sanitation for people in developing countries.
 
Lack of safe sanitation can lead to cholera, typhoid and diarrheal disease. And although Center faculty affiliate Stephen Luby, professor of medicine and the director of research for Stanford’s Center for Innovation in Global Health, wants to rid the world of these afflictions as much as or more than anyone – he’s dedicated much of his career to the task – he has qualms about the focus on toilets.
 
“I’m not a fan of World Toilet Day,” Luby said. “A toilet is not a sanitation system.”