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Toilets aren’t taboo – they’re tools for change

Think that having access to toilets and hygienic systems is a given? Ask Ripa, 11, of Hatibandha, Bangladesh and she'll tell you otherwise.

"Once I was badly in need of using the toilet. Unfortunately, there was only one toilet in our school which was very unhygienic. I had to use a neighbour's toilet," she said, recalling the ordeal with embarrassment.

Like Ripa, 2.5 billion people across the globe lack access to adequate sanitation, and 1 billion live without latrines. Though toilets respond to a basic need we all share, there's nothing simple about the important issues they address. Aside from compromising one's right to privacy, dignity and equality, a lack of latrines also poses a major threat to health and safety.

Toilets aren’t just important resources, they’re lifesaving.

According to the World Health Organization diarrheal diseases kill approximately 760,000 children under the age of 5 every year – making it the second leading cause of death for this age group. And yet it is entirely preventable and treatable.

At Plan, we’re working to change this statistic by providing proper sanitation resources to developing communities like Hatibandha – where 44% of the population earns less than $1 per day.

See how Community Sponsorship enabled us to transform Ripa’s school and the lives of hundreds of children by providing access to new, clean and private latrines:

The run-down latrine before reconstruction

The school’s run-down latrine before reconstruction.

On average, Bangladesh’s rural primary schools have only 1 toilet per 300 students.

Usually these latrines are unhygienic, pollute the surrounding environment, and are not connected to a water supply system. Children are often left with little option but to relieve themselves in the open or in unmonitored locations – leaving them exposed and vulnerable to exploitation.

Plan staff and community members review construction

A group of local people were trained by Plan and facilitated the project – including selecting a mason, assisting with construction and coordinating with schools.

Children presented their issues and concerns to Plan staff and community members. Together they set out to build 3 gender-separated school latrines.

Upon completion, the community celebrated their accomplishments with an opening ceremony, followed by a first-ever Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene school fair, in support of project sustainability.

The latrine handover ceremony

“I’ve never seen such beautiful latrines in my life!” exclaimed Selim, a district Vice Chairman, taking pride in the community-led initiative.

The new latrines are gender-separated, private, and secure spaces where no child has to fear harassment or abuse.

“We are so delighted to use the new bathrooms!” celebrated Ripa. “One morning, after washing my face, I stood in front of the mirror and realized this clean, beautiful bathroom has made me look beautiful. I like coming to school now.”

A girl and boy stand outside the toilet stalls.

Not only do the new latrines remove one of the barriers that keep girls from receiving an education, they are also accessible to children with disabilities. All students can now feel comfortable and included when attending school, increasing their confidence and participation.

A smiling girl holds her books outside the fully accessible latrines.

Every year, children miss 443 million days of classes due to water-related illnesses. The new water system, along with the informative hygiene diagrams decorating the walls, will help improve students’ overall health and ensure their continued growth and development.

Boys wash their hands.

“I think we are very lucky that Plan is working in such a remote area,” reflected Selim, a community leader. “I would like to give my heartiest thanks to Plan.”

Children hold a thank you sign.

The children of Hatibandha thank Plan’s Canadian National Office (CNO) and YOU!

Break poverty, build progress

By sponsoring a community, you can help children gain access to crucial resources like water, sanitation, protection, and education – improving thousands of lives for many years to come.