Toilet Poverty

Toilet Poverty: The Fight for Sanitation and Dignity

Having a toilet is a privilege many people take for granted, yet toilet poverty is a crucial problem in many areas of the world. The World Health Organization reports that in more than 1.7 billion people do not have basic sanitation services like private toilets or latrines.[1] It’s such a problem that one of the United Nation’s global sustainable development goals includes ensuring that everyone has a safe toilet by 2030.[2]

Why are toilet poverty and sanitation poverty crucial problems? There are several reasons. Here are three:

  • Open defecation and its contribution to disease – When people defecate outdoors, it fuels disease and serious health conditions. It is estimated that 494 million people still defecate in the open.[3] This includes behind bushes, in the street and in open bodies of water, which means that at least 10 percent of the world’s population consumes food that is irrigated by wastewater.[4] Open defecation is linked to waterborne illnesses and creates health crises. These diseases make children more vulnerable to a disruption in education. In addition to waterborne disease, human waste can collect in heaps and then attract flies, which carry diseases wherever they land.[5]
  • Impact on overall well-being – When a community has poor sanitation, the well-being of the people in that community suffers. The anxiety levels are higher and it negatively impacts the economy as well.[6] For example, open defecation means risking assault as women go to open fields in the dark.[7]
  • Detriment to education – Girls often suffer when schools do not have toilets available. The Borgen Project says, “More than 50 percent of all primary schools in developing countries lack access to adequate water and sanitation facilities. On top of that, nearly two-thirds of all primary schools lack gender-specific toilets. These two statistics alone highlight why education for girls is an issue; young women all over the world are dropping out of school and missing educational opportunities due to sanitation options.”[8] It is estimated that girls who attend schools without adequate sanitation facilities can miss up to 40 days of class due to menstruation in a single school year.[9] This hinders their potential and puts them at a disadvantage because they overall have less days in school.

GFA World is working hard to eliminate toilet poverty and open defecation by providing sanitation facilities in Asia. In 2019, GFA installed more than 5,200 toilets in needy communities.[10] That boosted GFA’s cumulative total to more than 32,000 toilets installed.[11] They have also been impactful in the area of hygiene poverty and other types of sanitation-related poverty: dental care needs like toothbrushes, hand-washing stations and so on.

One benefactor is a man named Laal. He lives with his wife and four children. When GFA learned that this family didn’t have a toilet nearby their home, they sprung into action. Two GFA volunteers, named Gavi and Taani, from a nearby community came and facilitated the construction of a sanitation facility. This small project changed the lives of Laal and his family. The pastor of the nearby church came and shared with Laal why their community of believers went out of their way to provide a sanitation system for Laal’s community. Through this gift, Laal and his family experienced Christ’s love and learned more about Him.

This is just one of the 32,000 stories of people who received toilets through GFA World. Sanitation progress is being made in many developing countries, but it often occurs one toilet at a time. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to each situation, and GFA evaluates many options to find the best fit.

“Many of the world’s health problems are solvable with basic public-health practices,” said GFA World founder K.P. Yohannan (Metropolitan Yohan). “Helping to address these needs in the communities we serve is a practical way we can share the love of Jesus.”[12]

Toilets may be a normal part of life for most people around the world, but in areas where people lack such a simple luxury it is a practical way to share Jesus.

This little boy’s statement says it all: “I used to feel so much shame to use the bathroom outside, but … a toilet [was built] in my village, and I don’t have any more shame.”[13] It’s amazing to think how life-changing a toilet can be to a family who is living in poverty.

Will you join GFA World in providing basic sanitation and toilets in Asia and parts of Africa? For $540, you can provide a family with an outdoor toilet. Or, you can share the cost of that toilet with others with your best gift possible. Your gift could impact one family in an amazing way or it could be used by an entire community—what a gift!

Learn more about period poverty

[1] “Sanitation.” World Health Organization. March 21, 2020.
[2] “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.” United Nations. Accessed October 28, 2022.
[3] “Sanitation.” World Health Organization. March 21, 2020.
[4] Ibid.
[5] “How Open Defecation Affects Human Health and Environment and its Effective Solutions.” Conserve Energy Future. Accessed October 28, 2022.
[6] “Sanitation.” World Health Organization. March 21, 2020.
[7] Walker, Ken. “Taking the Toilet Challenge.” GFA World. May 18, 2021.
[8] “The Link between Sanitation and Education for Girls.” The Borgen Project. Accessed October 28, 2022.
[9] “What Helps Keep Girls in School? Toilets and Clean Water.” Global Citizen. September 5, 2016.
[10] Walker, Ken. “Taking the Toilet Challenge.” GFA World. May 18, 2021.
[11] Ibid.
[12] “World Toilet Day No Joke for One-Third of Earth’s Population Without Sanitary Waste Facilities.” GFA World. November 19, 2015.
[13] “Gifts for the Poor.” GFA World. Accessed October 28, 2022.