Be Kind, Flush the Toilet: A Call to Action

Aug 21 , 2021
By Kidist Yidnekachew

On multiple occasions, I have walked into restrooms to find that somebody else before me had forgotten to flush after use. It makes me angry that I have to be the one to clean up after somebody else's mess. Some people do not seem to mind and they use the restroom regardless of whether it is flushed. This is unacceptable and a horrible experience for everybody involved. Those who care pay the price and suffer the consequences.

How can a person forget to clean up after themselves?

It is like forgetting to wash or wipe. At times, it is impossible to find the culprit as many before them has left without flushing, making the last person to use the bathroom reluctant to do as such. The only times this can be justified is when I am incapable of doing it myself, either out of sickness or old age. In places where there is only intermittent access to water, buckets of water should be placed close by for people to use when the toilet flush is not working.

As for restaurants and public places, they have to make sure water and other facilities come in handy. If the toilet is clogged or there is no water, they should close the restrooms temporarily until they have them fixed. Eateries without clean bathrooms give no confidence that they have a better kitchen. Moreover, since most traditional foods are eaten by hand, without a spoon or a fork, a restaurant should concern itself with its bathroom facilities as much as it does with decorum, service and the meal.

Parents should also educate their children about acceptable sanitary bathroom habits, so they will not become adults that leave their businesses behind to be handled by somebody else. I often feel bad for the janitors who clean up after these kinds of people.

Lack of flushing has certain psychological sources. I find these people to be irresponsible individuals that blame others for their misfortune. And they must think that they are entitled and that it is okay for others to clean up after them. I asked some of my friends and acquaintances their thoughts on the matter and if they have ever left a toilet without flushing after use.

They told me it was a common experience in most low-budget restaurants, universities and other public places. They also added that they too on occasions have done it, especially if they only had urinated. Some say they forgot to flush because somebody else was standing by the bathroom door waiting for them to leave. Others said they had experienced this in their own households.

None of this is surprising to most people. I was once at a café, a small but pleasant place with good food. After finishing our meal, we took a trip to the bathroom. My friend went first. It was one of those bathrooms where both men and women have to share. The waiter was also waiting to go into the facility. After he did and came out, he washed his hands with liquid soap heavily diluted with water, a common practice by most eateries to cut costs.

I waited a minute to get in right after the waiter left, which meant that I witnessed the fact that he did not flush. At that time, the first thing that came to my mind was, “thank God he isn’t the chef.” The chances are that people who do not flush do not often insist they wash their hands either.

Add to this poor state of affairs that Ethiopia tops the list of countries with the highest percentage of its population without basic access to toilets, according to WaterAid. There is not much attention paid to it, though there have been major strides made to address open defecation. This is why the country still suffers from diseases that could be eradicated easily if basic sanitation services were introduced, from cholera to diarrhoea.

PUBLISHED ON Aug 21,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1112]

Kidist Yidnekachew has degrees in psychology and journalism and communications. She can be reached at

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