In America, we tend to think of squats as exercises, but for the 2.5 billion people worldwide who have no access to toilets, they’re practiced for an entirely different reason. About half the world’s population has no access to proper sanitation, which puts them at risk for several infectious diseases, including cholera and dysentery, and kills nearly 2 million people annually. At least 5,000 children die from water-related disease every day.
To call attention to the issue, in 2001, Nov. was declared World Toilet Day, and organizers this year are asking people to squat at noon in recognition of the problem. In India, for example, more people have access to cell phones than they do to toilets, according to a recent study. (More on Time.com: Bird Flu Pops Up Again in Hong Kong. Is a Pandemic on Its Way?)
For women, the toilet issue is especially acute — in some countries, they are not permitted to defecate during the day due to issues of “modesty.” After dark, however, when they are finally allowed to go, they become vulnerable to assault and rape. (More on TIME.com: The History of the Toilet)
While toilet humor seems to be a human universal (especially, it seems, for preteen boys), the fact that half the world lacks adequate sanitation is no laughing matter.
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