Every day, we read statistics, studies and reviews on topics regarding health and wellness. Seldom do they surprise or frighten me as much as this one about world sanitation, though: there are 1.5 billion people more in the world with access to cell phones than the number who have access to clean toilets.
According to the United Nations, right now, in 2013, there are 6 billion people who have cell phones and only 4.5 billion who are able to use clean, sanitary bathrooms. That leaves 2.5 billion people without access to basic sanitation which “perpetuates the vicious cycle of disease and entrenched poverty.”
A lack of proper sanitation can lead to contaminating the water supply, thus spreading diseases. In fact, 1,800 children die every day from diseases that could have been prevented by access to a clean toilet, with about a quarter of those kids being from India. In the huge city of Mumbai, its population of 100 million has a 70% rate of cell phone possession and 60% rate of in-home televisions. However, only half of families have toilets, often because sanitation costs more than a simple mobile phone.
As a result, the United Nations has called those in power to action to end this crisis. Said United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson:
“I am determined to energize action that will lead to results. I am calling on all actors – government, civil society, business and international organizations – to commit to measurable action and to mobilize the resources to rapidly increase access to basic sanitation.
“Let’s face it – this is a problem that people do not like to talk about. But it goes to the heart of ensuring good health, a clean environment and fundamental human dignity for billions of people – and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.”
It’s easy to take our bathrooms for granted, to complain when a public facility is less-than-pristine or when our significant other forgets to wipe the counters. I know that when I make lists about things I’m grateful for, I include food, shelter and loved ones, among other things, but rarely remember bathroom despite those being a huge factor in keeping me healthy. It’s incredibly important to recognize the enormity of this issue, and to keep in mind those who are affected by this discrepancy on a daily basis.