I was recently fortunate enough to be able to spend two days at the Alpine Club’s Kokanee Glacier Cabin. It is a truly remote backcountry hut in the Selkirk Mountains, yet it is state of the art and boasts all modern conveniences, including electricity from a turbine in the creek, flushing toilets, a solar shower and propane heat.
It was while hiking the surrounding mountains that our group had time to reflect upon just how spoilt we really were, and strangely enough the topic wandered onto one particular aspect of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals; access to adequate sanitation. The UN estimate that 2.5 billion of the world’s population do not have access to such luxuries. We may hear this statistic quite frequently, but do we ever stop to think what it means. Those people wake up in the morning and they have nowhere decent to go to the bathroom. In Canada, even miles from anywhere on a glacier, we don’t have that problem. It is almost unthinkable to us, which is probably why most of us don’t dwell on it, but 2.5 billion people around the world dwell on it a great deal, and I believe as Global Citizen’s we should care as well. Again, according to the UN, “every 20 seconds a child dies as a result of poor sanitation, 80 per cent of diseases in developing countries are caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation. Improved sanitation brings advantages for public health, livelihoods and dignity that extend beyond households to entire communities. “ I am especially interested by that word dignity. It is a beautiful word and should be available to everyone in a better world.
A few years ago while in Kenya we visited Kibera, the largest urban slum in Africa, with an estimated population of over 1 million people at a density of 2,000 per hectare. It is infamous for it’s “flying toilets”, a facetious name for the use of plastic bags for defecation. I probably don’t need to go into detail to describe how unhygienic this necessity is, but we wore good boots because it was impossible to pick a clear route and the odour was quite overwhelming. Kibera is very difficult to develop because the land it is built on is mostly made up of refuse and is subject to frequent flooding. Yet, despite the lack of dignity afforded the residents in this one aspect of their lives, people greeted us with interest and warmth. They were cheerful and incredibly enterprising with a strong sense of community.
When I am surrounded by the dazzling beauty of the mountains in British Columbia I am inspired to renew my commitment to the inspiring residents of Kibera and the billions of other people around the world like them. I take time to appreciate the amenities that we have, try to remember not to take them for granted and to nurture the inspiration to keep working towards Rally4Life’s Mission to relieve poverty, so everyone can live a life of good health and dignity. Back country lovers would be outraged to come across a flying toilet in our pristine wilderness, let’s be equally outraged about their existence in impoverished parts of the world.