Who can forget turning on the torch and making the long trip down the backyard to go to the outhouse for a solitary midnight wee?
They were not the most practical of toilets but we got by, and even celebrated the hardy nature they helped build. And while our major complaints may have been about having to walk outside to use the toilet in the cold morning air in winter, or of having to kick a few dozen toads out of the way at night in summer, there are some people in the world to whom the humble outhouse would be a blessing.
Today is World Toilet Day, a day that sheds light on an issue we don’t often think about: much of the world’s desperate need for better sanitation. According to the official World Toilet Day site, about 4.5 billion people live without a household toilet that safely disposes of waste.
Toilets in the developed world have come on leaps and bounds since the 1950s and ’60s, when the outhouse or dunny was the norm. In Japan now, you can even purchase toilet seats that have a heating function to avoid getting a cold posterior in the winter months, and one that’ll blow-dry your behind if it’s too delicate for toilet paper.
That’s not the case in less developed countries, however, where the lack of well-maintained and functioning toilets is a serious issue – defecating in the open is still practised by an estimated 950 million people around the world, spreading illnesses, that in turn cause children to miss school, and who in turn miss out on an education. Diarrhorea alone kills more than 117,000 children aged under five in India each year.
The United Nations wants to end open defecation by 2030, and part of that work will be done in Melbourne, Australia, from November 20-21, when the city hosts the World Toilet Summit. You can learn more about World Toilet Day and the Melbourne summit here.
In the meantime, when you have a sit on the thrown today, have a think about how lucky you are to live in a place that has top-of-the-line toilets. And when we don’t have those, we always have the dunny to fall back on!