Nov. 19 is World Toilet Day. And instead of being the butt of the joke, it's an initiative that's providing proper sanitation to countries in dire need of it.

In an effort to raise awareness about the global need for sanitation, the United Nations General Assembly declared Nov. 19 World Toilet Day - and it's no joke. The worldwide initiative, adopted last year and initiated by Singapore, marks the first day designated for sanitation awareness in the 68-year history of the United Nations, according to Truthout, a nonprofit group that provides independent news to organizations that seek to report systemic injustice. The goal of all this toilet talk is to bring proper sanitation to countries like Uganda, Zimbabwe, Sudan and other impoverished areas where the need is great. According to Mark Neo, deputy permanent represent of Singapore to the United Nations, global sanitation is improving, but is not near what it should be. "Since 1990, 1.8 billion people have gained access to improved sanitation, and the number of people who practice open defecation has been reduced by 272 million," Neo said. The United Nations helps put these statistics in perspective. According to the United Nations, "Of the world's 7 billion people, about 6 billion have mobile phones, but only 4.5 billion have access to toilets or latrines," PBS reported. And sanitation does more than just promote healthy living, said Chris Williams, executive director of the Geneva-based Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, Truthout reported. "An environment that lacks sanitation and clean water is an environment where achieving other development goals is an impossible dream. The time to act is now," Williams said. PBS reports that to combat this global crisis, many advocacy groups are taking action and inviting the world to "start an online fundraiser, sign a virtual bathroom wall and watch a singing toilet video." And the increased awareness has led many to act, including Sanergy, an organization that boasts of a growing network of franchised toilets scattered in urban slums in places like Kenya, Forbes reported. "Owners of these Fresh Life Toilets charge a fee for neighbors to use the latrine and thus make money for their families, and neighbors finally have a safe place to go to the bathroom. The toilets are cleaned every day by a growing army of Fresh Life Frontline operators who comb the slums for human waste." Projects like this are creating upwards of 300 jobs in hard-pressed economic areas in addition to improving sanitation.%3Cimg%20src%3D%22http%3A//