London sanitation show aims to make "poo" hot topic

Thu Oct 18, 2012 12:47pm EDT
 
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By Julie Mollins

LONDON (Reuters) - Human defecation remains a taboo subject, despite the fact that 2.5 billion people lack toilets, causing a global health crisis that kills more than a million children each year.

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) hopes a new exhibition opening on Thursday will make sanitation easier to discuss. The show is part of its efforts to help fight diseases causing diarrhea, which kill more children than malaria, HIV/AIDS and measles combined.

"People don't talk about poo enough, and if we don't talk about poo, how are we going to solve the problem of diarrheal diseases?" asked Val Curtis, director of the LSHTM's Hygiene Centre.

"We want to make shit sexy - make talking about shit possible," Curtis told AlertNet, a humanitarian news service run by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, adding that proper handwashing with soap could prevent 600,000 deaths a year from diseases like diarrhea and respiratory infections.

"You've got to know your enemy and look your enemy in the face. Some people say it's not acceptable for academics to go around talking about shit, but it's not acceptable for 600,000 children to be dying unnecessarily because we don't talk about shit," she said.

The month-long exhibition, which includes a selection of toilet designs, scientific tools for the study of faeces and a small golden poo sculpture seated on a red cushion, is timed to coincide with Global Handwashing Day on October 15 and World Toilet Day on November 19. The school expects at least 4,000 people to see the show.

The poo sculpture is the model for The Golden Poo Award 2012 - the Oscar of the sanitation sector, organized by PooP Creative Ltd and the London Short Film Festival.

A film titled "Men, Loos and Number Twos" won the "Number One Award", and another short film, "Pushing4Change", won the "Number Two Award". They are being used in awareness-raising campaigns.   Continued...