Toilet stories

The best of a few crap options

For those of us in Australia, it can be difficult to empathise with people who poo in the open. But the reality is that the 1.1 billion who practice open defecation have little choice in the matter.

Take Nankeshar for instance. He lives in an Indian slum that houses 2000 people, but only has 7 male bathroom stalls (there are also 7 female bathroom stalls).

“We come here because we are forced to come here, we don’t have any other option,” Nankeshar explains to us from the riverbank of the Yamuna. “There are so many more people than toilets, so you have to waste a lot of time there waiting. That’s why we come here, so we don’t have to waste our time.”

Using the river may be the best of a few bad options, but it is by no means a pleasant experience. For one, it’s dangerous; drug users are known to harass people and steal their mobile phones. This happened to Nankeshar once, and he no longer goes to the river alone.

Then there are the health risks. “When you come here, this is shit everywhere. And when you come here for the toilet you catch a lot disease.”

The fact that this still remains the best option for Nankeshar says a lot about the condition of the slum’s community toilet block.

“If someone makes another toilet in the basti then we wouldn’t have to come here, then there would be toilets for everyone there,” Nankeshar explains.

WaterAid works with the world’s most vulnerable and marginalised communities to help them gain access to toilets.

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