Batu Burok public toilet boasts a 3D mural of an ocean scene. Pix by Ahmad Rabiul Zulkifli

KUALA TERENGGANU: Not many like talking about toilets owing to taboo or other reasons.

But poor sanitation kills more people than HIV/AIDS, malaria and measles combined, according to the World Toilet Organisation (WTO).

The WTO statistics are alarming.

Unclean, unsafe and improper sanitation affects an estimated 2.5 billion, or one in three people worldwide; kills 1,000 children below five years daily and inflicts diseases on 88 per cent of the global population.

Local Government Department deputy director-general (technical) Zainal Abidin Saidun said better sanitation supports better nutrition and improved health, especially for women and children.

“It also reduces healthcare costs, while proper toilet maintenance offers business opportunities.

“The global toilet problem is the least publicised, although many realise sanitation could change people's lives forever. Yet, there is apathy in seeing toilets that are filthy, clogged, smelly, spoilt, without water and other faults,” said Zainal Abidin.

He added the WTO and many governments were doing their utmost in building life-saving eco-toilets for some of the poorest parts of the world.

“Yet many an advanced country still has inadequate or unhygienic toilets, especially for the poor and the public,” he said in an interview in conjunction with World Toilet Day on Nov 19.

Kuala Terengganu is hosting this year’s event, organised by the Housing and Local Government Ministry, at the Batu Burok beach.

Zainal Abidin described the silent sanitation crisis as a ticking time bomb which affected everyone’s lives.

“It is imperative for us to provide ecological, sustainable toilets to the billions who are in desperate need of sanitation.

“That is why World Toilet Day is held to raise awareness up the political agenda of the human rights need to have access to improved sanitation,” he said.

Zainal Abidin said the ministry, in collaboration with Tourism Malaysia and other ministries had initiated the 1Malaysia Green, 1Malaysia Clean programme.

“Thus, in providing proper sanitation for all, it had allocated RM25.6 million and RM24.02 million for 2014 and this year, respectively, for local authorities to upgrade public toilets.

“However, 50 per cent of the public toilets are below the three-star rating, meaning a lot of them are in deplorable condition,” he said.

In conjunction with World Toilet Day, the ministry is awarding top three prizes worth RM3,000, RM2,000 and RM1,000, respectively, for various categories.

The categories are for public toilets, restaurants, shopping centres, institutions of higher learning, secondary schools, primary schools, government offices, bus/train stations, recreational and tourist spots, petrol stations and places of worship.

“The toilets will be judged on overall cleanliness, facilities available, structure (floor, toilet bowl, door and cubicle), decoration/additional facilities, and facilities for the handicapped and infants.

“Other factors include the daily traffic, the toilet’s specialty, the ‘wow’ or X-factor and the commitment displayed by the toilet operator,” said Zainal Abidin.

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