Happy #WorldToiletDay! Here’s What It’s Like To Live Without One

Today is World Toilet Day, a chance to think about the billions of people in the world who don't have toilets. People like me.

I grew up in an informal settlement in Kenya in the 1970s. When nature called, my only option was to visit the community toilets. These were toilets you squat over. You'd pour in water but there was no flush. And they were housed in a shed.

To get there, I had to walk 10 minutes, stand in the queue for my turn and be vigilant about my safety. At crowded times, like in the morning and evening, I might have to wait 10 minutes. The people in line would be dancing to keep from peeing and complaining about how the people using the toilets were taking too long.

In sum, a toilet was a facility I could only access with great difficulty.

It was also filthy. The toilets were never cleaned. One had to master special maneuvers to avoid messing oneself with human waste found inside. Since there was no toilet paper, people would wipe their hands on the walls. If you were wearing a sweater, you learned to remove it before entering — or else the stench would stick with you. And for this experience, I had to pay a shilling per visit, money that was not available readily.

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