Dear Valentine, Do You Have A Toilet?

My Dearest Valentine,

I love you so. It’s Valentine’s Day, and today is the day that I know you would propose to me, but… I am troubled that you don’t have a toilet.

I know what you say is true, that most people don’t have a toilet. Yes, I did listen when you told me that six out of every seven Ghanaians (20 million people!) don’t have a toilet for their household. And yes, I did listen when you told me that one in five don’t even use a toilet, but instead go to the bush or use a drain. But this is part of the reason why cholera is still such a problem in our country. Is this what you want for us?

So I ask myself, if I marry this wonderful, wonderful person, what would our life without our own toilet look like? Well, I would have to get up earlier each morning and queue for the public toilets. I do love you so. For you I can do this. But, what if the urge was too urgent and I couldn’t wait? I would need to find somewhere discrete by a drain or resort to a flying toilet in a black polythene bag… Hmmm. I do love you so. For you I can do this.

But what about when my family comes to stay? What about… my mother? Would you ask my mother to queue all hours of the day and night to use the public toilets? Ah, the public toilets… Oh my, she would say. The stench! The flies! The disease! The abomination! And we know that she’d be right. She would no sooner use those toilets than get half naked in public over a drain to ease herself. No… she would not come. Hmmm. But I do love you so. If I had to, I would choose you over my family.

What about the wonderful children that we would have? With us as parents, how could they not be perfect? But then I think of our wonderful children not having a toilet and having to wait in line at all hours with all sorts of people by the public toilet. And to expose our perfect children to such risks? I hear that over 3,600 children die every year from diarrhoea! Not even cholera. Just diarrhoea! And the risks if they are using public toilets or the bush or drains are more than twice higher than a household toilet. How could we put our children through that?

And if the urge came too strong to wait in the queue? They would have to find somewhere to hide and do it! What if they were followed? Oh the terrible things that could happen to them. And if they had to use the bush? What about snakes?? Snakes!!! Our perfect, young, vulnerable children… I love you so, but so would I love our children. I could not do that to them. No, no, no!

So, my love. You see that, as much as I do love you, I cannot marry someone that would not want and use a household toilet. I am sorry, but for the love of our children…

What’s that you say? You are happy to get our own toilet, for our own household? What joy! My Dearest, most Wonderful, will I marry you?

Yes!!!Happy Valentine’s Day!


Anonymous (UNICEF Ghana)