Carnival Triumph and Sanitation

In February, the world watched as the Carnival Triumph cruise ship was stranded at sea. 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew members were trapped on a ship with little fresh water, little food, and toilets that would not work for 5 days.

5 days.

It was all over the news, details of the deplorable conditions filled the airwaves, everyone was hoping for the safe return and health of the people on board.

Yet, every day, 2.5 billion people experience those exact same conditions. Let me write that number out for you, 2,500,000,000. That’s an awful lot of zeros. That’s larger, by 2,188,408,083 people than the population of the United States in 2011. It’s an astronomical number for most of us to contemplate, and an even bigger health problem. Not having a toilet to flush results in open defecation, the practice of pooping in an open environment without benefit of a toilet or latrine.

Yep, that’s right kids, we’re talking about poop. It’s not a subject that’s spoken about a great deal. It’s not polite, and it’s certainly not pretty. But one of the major problems the people on the Carnival Triumph faced was how to deal with human waste. It carries bacteria and viruses, exposure to feces keeps the body from absorbing vital minerals and vitamins, and well, it stinks. For developing nations without a great deal of infrastructure in the way of sewers and running water, it’s a big issue.

It’s our cause, at SUM1, because we not only want everyone to wash their hands to prevent the spread of disease, we want everyone to have access to toilets, to prevent a major cause of disease. I know you’ve read our website at http://www.sum1.org. I know, if you’re reading this blog, that you care about the state of sanitation and the health of people in the world. Did you know that 200,000,000 tons of feces go untreated every year? That’s another astronomical number. Two hundred million tons.

It seems impossible, at times, to imagine how we, a non-profit based in the United States, can solve this problem, but we believe that through our education and intervention model – teaching proper handwashing and other hygiene techniques, as well as intervening by building toilets and working with other non-profits to bring modern conveniences to rural areas – we can make a real difference, one person, one village at a time. We believe in ourselves and in our mission. We believe in our volunteers, our readers, our subscribers. We believe in health and we believe we can make progress in spite of those astronomical figures. We believe in the people we educate.

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