*By Dr. Joakim Harlin, UN-Water Vice Chair and Chief, Freshwater Ecosystems Unit of UNEP.
We usually talk about the water and sanitation crisis in terms of what people lack when they don’t have safe water to drink or a decent toilet: dignity, health, and especially for women and girls, safety.
But what if we focused on the human potential that could be unlocked by water supply and sanitation, and on what the public and private sectors could gain by meeting the enormous global demand for these basic services?
For both these events in 2016, the theme has been on ‘jobs’. That’s because as well as fulfilling people’s human rights and saving lives, access to water and sanitation is about creating jobs and growing economies.
So, as you might have seen, for World Toilet Day on 19th November we’ve created a cast of cartoon characters called the ‘Working Toilets’, dancing through people’s offices and factories, performing miracles and letting people work in safety.
Behind the fun is the serious point, backed up by plenty of evidence, that toilets and drinking water in the workplace increase productivity by keeping people safe and healthy.
In Latin America and the Caribbean today, over 31 million people rely on unsafe water, and 107 million have only rudimentary latrines. Health spending and productivity losses due to illnesses caused by lack of sanitation and poor hygiene practices is estimated to cost many countries worldwide up to 5% of GDP.
In this crisis, businesses have a role to play. Across the world, social enterprises are springing up to respond to people’s needs, providing services along the whole sanitation chain, from toilet to waste treatment. Indeed, the opportunities are significant: it’s estimated that global demand for water and sanitation services is worth over $50 billion.
This sort of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit can play a significant role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goal targets to ensure access and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030.
We have the chance to unlock so much human potential through partnerships and simple, cost-effective interventions. So, please celebrate World Toilet Day with us. And remember what the Working Toilets say: “Toilets work!”
 WHO/UNICEF (2015): http://www.wssinfo.org/fileadmin/user_upload/resources/JMP-Update-report-2015_English.pdf
 Hutton 2012
 Freedonia 2013