【明報專訊】In our day-to-day life, there is hardly anything quite as relieving as going to the toilet. It is an example of how we often find great joy in the simplest things we do in the humblest places of all. However, it is not necessarily as smooth and enjoyable as we could imagine. For the 4.2 billion people who do not have access to safely managed sanitary facilities, this could be arduous (艱巨的) instead, and they have to make an extra effort to get it done.
We are referring to the lack of sanitary facilities, which is very much a matter of life and death. While we in Hong Kong may complain about having to wait in line to relieve ourselves in malls, in some places around the world, such as Afghanistan, toilets simply do not exist everywhere. Due to a short supply of water, sanitary facilities in many schools in Afghanistan are in deplorable (極其惡劣的) conditions. Some do not even have toilets and hand-washing facilities, leaving very unpleasant odour around school premises. Students there are skipping breakfast, not because they want to stay slim, but out of fear for having to go to the toilet. ''Students who live far away wait until the end of school to relieve themselves,'' says Sonita, a young student.
''Due to the lack of water, students used to use stones and clods of dirt to clean themselves in the toilets, so the toilets were blocked and only three toilets were open for teachers and students to use,'' recalls Besmellah, who manages Sonita's school.
To help improve the situation, hygiene and sanitary facilities were installed in two schools, including Sonita's. A solar-powered water network has since been constructed, providing stable water supply for the rehabilitated toilets that are now both disability-inclusive and equipped with menstrual hygiene items. On top of that, a hand-washing station with multiple water taps and soap has also been set up, right when the world started to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic.
As we observe World Toilet Day on November 19, let's spare a moment to reflect on the privileges we have, and appreciate the fact that every day we can relieve ourselves in a relatively safe place.