A toilet in Liberia

 Cover image of Ghost Map by Steven Johnson.

Cover image of Ghost Map by Steven Johnson.

Steven Johnson's book The Ghost Map is an account of the horrific cholera outbreaks in London in the 1850s. Doctor John Snow and Reverend Henry Whitehead disagreed with the official line that the disease that was killing so many people was airborne. Snow suspected that cholera traveled between people and meticulously mapped the number of deaths per household in Soho. Meanwhile, Reverend Whitehead noticed patterns of behaviour in the sick people he visited. The Soho epidemic appeared to centre on a communal water pump in Broadwick Street and Snow eventually convinced authorities to remove its handle. 

Tragically, cholera is still prevalent in many areas of the world. Having read Johnson's graphic descriptions of what the disease does to a human body, and knowing that it can be prevented, water sanitation projects always get my attention. Also, I spend much of my professional life talking about toilets, so when Toilet Twinning came to my attention on Twitter I felt I should support it and twinned my loo with one in Liberia.

Just one in four Liberians has access to safe drinking water, according to the World Health Organisation, and half of all Liberians have no access to a toilet and use streams or open areas. Outbreaks of water-borne diseases like cholera occur regularly. As many as one in five deaths in Liberia are blamed on water and sanitation problems.
— http://www.toilettwinning.org/about-our-bogs/liberia

The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson is available is available to buy at Foyles.

 The commemorative pump in Broadwick Street, Soho, with the John Snow pub in the background.

The commemorative pump in Broadwick Street, Soho, with the John Snow pub in the background.