United Nations: More people with access to cell phones than toilets in India

From Wikinews, the free news source you can write!
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Friday, April 16, 2010

Public toilet in India.
Image: John Hill.

According to a United Nations survey, more people in India, the second most populous country in the world, have access to mobile phones than to a proper toilet. Over half a billion cell phones are active in India, but only 366 million people there have access to a toilet.

"It is a tragic irony to think that in India, a country now wealthy enough that roughly half of the people own phones, about half cannot afford the basic necessity and dignity of a toilet," commented Zafar Adeel, Director of United Nations University's Institute for Water, Environment and Health (IWEH).

India's 545 million cell phones serve about 45 per cent of the population of more than one billion. Only 31 per cent (366 million) have access to modern hygienic amenities as of 2008. The United Nations University (UNU) recommends achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) which aims to cut in half the number of people lacking safe water and proper sanitary arrangements. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), there would be a deficit of one billion people from that target aimed for 2015.

"Anyone who shirks the topic as repugnant, minimises it as undignified, or considers unworthy those in need should let others take over for the sake of 1.5 million children and countless others killed each year by contaminated water and unhealthy sanitation," Adeel added.

"Popular education about the health dangers of poor sanitation is also needed. But this simple measure could do more to save lives, especially those of young people, improve health and help pull India and other countries in similar circumstances out of poverty than any alternative investment. It can also serve as a very significant boost to the local economy," he said. "The world can expect, however, a return of between $3 and $34 for every dollar spent on sanitation, realized through reduced poverty and health costs and higher productivity — an economic and humanitarian opportunity of historic proportions."

The nine recommendations made by the UNU include changing the MDG target from 50 per cent by 2015 to 100 per cent coverage by 2025. Another suggested reform was to assign 0.002 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) to improving sanitation. Approximately 358 billion dollars would be required to achieve that MDG target, considering that a toilet costs 300 dollars.

Sources

Bookmark-new.svg