Toilet Poverty

What Is Hygiene Poverty?

Hygiene poverty can be defined as the “inability to afford everyday hygiene products, such as shampoo, toilet paper, grooming products, dish soap, etc.”[1] This lack may manifest itself in many ways. For example, it is hygiene poverty when someone’s daily life is impacted because they can’t afford new hygiene supplies. This could mean brushing teeth with an old toothbrush, not changing a baby’s diaper for a long period of time or not wearing deodorant because it’s too expensive. While these items seem simple for many people around the world, people in poverty long for these items.

Lack of hygiene impacts many areas of life. Here are some examples of the impacts of hygiene poverty:

  • A struggle to find employment – When someone doesn’t shower or have the capacity for proper hygiene, it is difficult to find a job.
  • Poor health – Poor hygiene often leads to increased illness, especially in children. For example, diarrhea is one of the leading causes of child mortality in impoverished areas, killing 361,000 children under the age of five each year.[2] This is often the result of poor hygiene and lack of soap and hand-washing stations.
  • Lack of self confidence – People without adequate hygiene are often self-conscious of their condition, which keeps them from taking the steps necessary to improve. For example, if a man has to choose between shaving cream and deodorant when preparing for a job interview, it may be difficult to have the confidence needed to apply for the job in the first place.
  • Lower school attendance for girls – If girls lack menstruation supplies, they will likely miss more school. Part of hygiene awareness is making sure girls do not miss out on education because of a lack of menstruation supplies.

GFA World teaches hygiene to children across South Asia and in parts of Africa. GFA missionaries understand the importance of hand-washing and other hygiene practices. They have conducted various campaigns and workshops with a hygiene emphasis to teach people in the communities they serve about the importance of proper and hygiene and demonstrating how to keep their hands sanitary. In some cases, this is the first time people have heard about the health risks of dirty hands. One man said, “The church has done a good job. These hand-washing techniques and facts were not known to us. Really, this is something great in regard to health awareness.”[3]

GFA World’s work is a great example of how understanding hygiene can help households and communities improve their quality of life. It’s just one of the ways GFA serves to help people in need.

Learn more about toilet poverty

[1] “What is hygiene poverty?” Poverty Impact Network.,products%2C%20dish%20soap%2C%20etc. Accessed October 28, 2022.
[2] Gallagher, Katherine. “The Vicious Cycle Between Poor Hygiene and Poverty.” Borgen Magazine. September 8, 2017.
[3] “To the Streets to Teach Hand-Washing Techniques.” GFA World. Accessed October 28, 2022.