Today, on World Toilet Day, Build Health International is excited to announce an incredible donation from Zurn Industries: 140 toilets! The toilets will be installed by BHI at hospitals and clinics across Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa, helping to bring quality healthcare to those who need it most.
Initially, when you hear about World Toilet Day you might wonder, what makes toilets so special? Do they really deserve an international day in their name? Yes! Toilets are incredibly important to human health. In fact, a few years ago, readers of the British Medical Journal chose modern sanitation — aka household toilets — as the single most important medical advancement since 1840!
Think about it. To borrow a phrase from journalist and author Rose George, “poop carries passengers.” Many passengers. Unwanted passengers. According to George, one gram (0.035oz) of human poop can contain up to:
That single gram is less than 1% of how much poop the average person passes every day.
Without toilets and latrines, human waste and its “passengers” can contaminate water and soil with diseases like cholera, typhoid and even polio. Cholera is a water-borne disease that causes severe diarrhea and dehydration in many regions around the world. Until 2010, there were no known cases of cholera in Haiti. But in the wake of the earthquake, contaminated water from one UN base sparked an epidemic that infected 655,000 people and killed almost 8,200.
Earlier this month, after a decade-long battle, Haiti reached an important milestone in the fight against cholera: zero lab-confirmed cases in the past nine months. This achievement was possible because of the hard work and dedication of Haitian authorities, health workers, and their partners. Now, we must ensure cholera never returns to Haiti. Functional toilets and proper sanitation are one part of how we do that.
When we are sick, we trust hospitals to help us recover. But health facilities without proper toilets and waste disposal can spread disease, instead of preventing it. Globally, 1 in 5 health care facilities lack sanitation services, meaning for 1.5 billion people their only option is to visit health centers without toilets or latrines. That is a major barrier in ensuring every person’s right to health and quality healthcare.
At BHI, sanitation and mitigating infection is a core consideration in every healthcare design. We always install high-quality fixtures, like Zurn’s Ecovantage toilets and ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) fixtures to kill microorganisms like tuberculosis. We also design and install context-appropriate wastewater and sewage treatment systems for each facility to keep the surrounding community healthy.
In 2020, BHI will begin installing the new Zurn toilets at our healthcare projects in Haiti, starting with the new St. Rock Hospital. Since 2002, the number of patients served by St. Rock Haiti Foundation at their current health clinic has increased from 100 to over 40,000 annually. The new 14,000-square-foot hospital will include a new dedicated emergency receiving area, new maternal health center, and expanded facilities for in- and out-patient care, mental health counselling, dental, HIV treatment, and hospital administration to serve the growing patient population.
Zurn’s incredible gift will help ensure that the new St. Rock Hospital has the highest quality sanitation system — keeping patients safe and protecting hospital staff while they save lives. And St. Rock is just the beginning! Zurn’s gift will benefit communities across Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa. We look forward to bringing you along to see the impact for those projects as well.
Ela Hefler is Build Health International’s Development & Communications Specialist. She writes about the intersections of health and infrastructure, with a focus on the impact of BHI’s work on fragile health systems.