THINK of it - 2.5 billion people, or 36% of the global population, lack access to toilets.
And according to the United Nations, the comparable figure for Papua New Guinea in 2015 was an incredible 81%.
It’s a big deal.
Poor sanitation increases water borne disease which the World Health Organisation has identified as a key driver of PNGs consistently poor health outcomes.
In fact poor sanitation is linked to over 50 diseases and, sadly, children are one of the groups most impacted.
In PNG child mortality rates are consistently among the world's worst. This is due in no small part to the high incidence of diarrhoea, the second largest cause of infant mortality in PNG.
Alarmingly, after a period of improvement, the incidence of water borne disease such as typhoid and cholera are again on the rise in PNG.
So while it's hardly 'sexy' and rarely the subject of polite conversation, it really is time we started talking seriously about toilets.
Despite significant international funding allotted to PNG for water, sanitation and hygiene, in percentage terms fewer people in PNG today have access to sanitation than 20 years ago.
Of concern is that, even if PNG's population remained at current levels, it will take 450 years before access to sanitation matches that of Australia.
In short, we are going backwards.
I’m involved with Rotary in the Village Toilet pilot project which has at its heart the belief that faster scale-up of sanitation is possible when local communities are effectively engaged and trained to solve the problem themselves.
This project makes use of PNG’s large and mostly underutilised young workforce. It also engages elders in workshops, initially on how to run community hygiene awareness sessions followed by training on the technical aspects of installing, maintaining and using composting toilets.
In line with Melanesian culture, a train-the-trainer approach is used in which elders train young men in the proper handling of compost waste and its application as a nutrient rich material.
Getting toilets into communities also will mitigate the prevalence of young girls absenting themselves from school when menstruating due to a lack of privacy and clean water.
Manly Rotary in Sydney and Rotary District 9685 have awarded grants of $16,000 for the purchase of composting units for three villages on Rambutso Island in the Manus Province.
Rotary is partnering with the Australian NGO, Friends Of Rambutso Inc, which I, a mixed Australian-PNG woman, founded nine years ago.
We bring local knowledge, well established local connections and valuable learning from past projects.
Your help is needed to raise additional funds so that composting units can be installed at both ends of villages participating in the pilot. Improving accessibility in this way will encourage toilet use and give the pilot the best chance of success.
In a world of worthy causes, I hope you will consider this one. Visit our website here.