Dignity, equality, violence, death and toilets

The woman on the right is the proud caretaker of a Liberian public sanitation facility with separated toilets and showers for men and women. In a country where up to 77 percent of women say they have been the victim of sexual violence, it is important to minimize the risk of assault. Photo: EC/ECHO/Anouk Delafortrie.

Picture the scene: you urgently need to go to the loo. You look around for the nearest toilet and realise with a sinking heart there is no facility around. Where do you go? What do you do?

How would you feel if you had to go to the toilet out in the open every single day? No privacy, no dignity and nowhere to wash your hands afterwards. Do you feel disgusted? Of course you do. No one should have to live like this.

But this is the stark reality for some 2.5 billion people in the world who do not have access to proper sanitation, including latrines. Almost one-seventh of the world’s population live in urban slums where a lack of access to safe toilets and adequate sanitation is most acute.

Today is World Toilet Day. It’s time to stop being embarrassed about poo and to talk dirty.

It is common knowledge for us that without toilets, human waste can impact an entire community. Open defecation poses serious health risks, particularly to children. Every 20 seconds, a child dies from diarrhoea. More children die from diarrhoea-related disease than from HIV, malaria and tuberculosis combined. This horrendous situation could be remedied by ensuring that everyone has access to improved sanitation and hygiene facilities, including supplies of clean water.

Ireland and Kenya are set to lead UN negotiations on development strategy but in what direction?

Kenya faces many development challenges including ethnic violence, corruption, high unemployment, crime and poverty. It now has a chance to help shape the global development agenda.  Photo: A member of The El Molo fishing community on lake Turkana, northern Kenya, Siegfried Modola/IRIN.

This month, Ireland and Kenya were appointed to lead UN negotiations on the post-2015 development strategy. Ireland’s and Kenya's roles will be led by their respective Ambassadors to the United Nations, David Donoghue and Macharia Kamau. They were appointed as "Co-Facilitators to lead open, inclusive, and transparent consultations on the post-2015 development agenda" by UN General Assembly President Sam Kutesa.

The post-2015 strategy is intended to replace the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set to expire next year. The Goals have provided significant direction to global development strategies since they were agreed fourteen years ago.

Irish Minister of State for Development, Trade Promotion and North-South Cooperation, Seán Sherlock T.D., outlined the importance of the leadership roles: "The role we have been given is pivotal in addressing the ambitious challenge to end global poverty and hunger in a generation. It will require Ireland to work closely with all members of the United Nations to secure a set of new goals which are ambitious and transformative. We will be defining an agenda for global action to end poverty and hunger and to ensure sustainable development worldwide by 2030"

Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan T.D., described Ireland's appointment as "a huge honour... and a great responsibility". He said: "It is testament to Ireland’s standing internationally, to our proud record of promoting human rights, to our long-standing participation in peacekeeping across the world and to our diplomacy (and) a recognition of the effectiveness of the Irish Aid programme."

He added: “This significant new role will build on Ireland’s important work on international development during our EU Presidency in 2013, and on the MDGs at the United Nations.”

The MDGs were a series of development outcomes, such as to halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day.

Not every target was met in every country but huge progress has been made. The goal of halving the proportion of people earning less than $1.25 a day was met in 2010. Halving the numbers suffering from hunger in 1990 should be almost met by 2015.