6 in 10 people worldwide lack access to flush toilets or other adequate sanitation

Why doesn’t the UN work on this?

“It may be the 21st century, with all its technological marvels, but 6 out of every 10 people on Earth still do not have access to flush toilets or other adequate sanitation that protects the user and the surrounding community from harmful health effects, a new study has found.” [Media release]

21 thoughts on “6 in 10 people worldwide lack access to flush toilets or other adequate sanitation”

  1. Not to speak for Gamecock, but I want to cool your pathos for tap water. Drinking tap water regularly is not a good idea. You seem to connect water from the tap in your kitchen to groundwater. That is indeed the kind of water many municipalities provide. If your tap water comes from an aquifer, it is already contaminated with calcium, magnesium, and silicon. They are not toxic in the usual sense — they don’t kill you instantly — but they cause far more problems in the long run than an occasional exposure to traces of raw sewage, which is not really likely to happen to you if you are supplied with groundwater. That water is really old — typically, thousands to millions of years old. Good luck to you if you want to contaminate it with anything that’s not there already. Groundwater is considered to be so safe it is delivered to you untreated (but I emphasise: it is only safe for occasional use).

    The contamination of the sort you mention does happen, but not in the ground. The distribution network is where the risks are concentrated. Bad plumbing, plumbers with dirty hands, back flow in the houses, and so on. In the town where I lived, we had resident algae and even Giardia in our water supply. Those things did not come from any groundwater contamination. They were entrenched in the system and nobody could get them out of it.

    So at least boil your tap water before drinking it. Or, much better, buy distilled water from WalMart at 80c per gallon. Or, even better, move to Scotland, where they drink rainwater from the tap, or to any similar place with lots of granite and basalt and no groundwater.

  2. Hallo Gamecock

    Next time you pour yourself a glass of water to drink from the tap in your kitchen ask yourself this: would I want to live in an area where the groundwater is contaminated with raw sewage?

  3. Howdy Gamecock
    You’re correct about the gap between “bad” and “not like us”. There are a number of answers to sanitation needs and the standard urban water cycle is only one (and highly effective).
    Your friends are also correct that failing to meet sanitation needs is a valid public health problem.
    Cultural colonialism is a problem; sharing effective solutions is a service. The line between them can be very blurry.

  4. Why doesn’t UN work on this?

    They are following California’s example, which is on course to exterminate flush toilets.

  5. Why doesn’t the UN work on this?

    I thought they already were. Aren’t they using or planning to use CDM, REDD, and other carbon related redistribution funds for these things?

  6. Matt Damon is going to launch a Crusade, where the West is going to tell the East they are doing things all wrong. Matt will cruise into Mombasa, and announce, “I’m from America, and I’m here to help you.” He will then tell them they are doing things all wrong. He will insist that they invest their very limited capital into toilets. Not the way to make friends and influence enemies.

    If Matt wants to help people, I’m all for it. Announcing that he wants to help everyone who is not like us is bad.

  7. GC, that depends. If you have an old fashioned privy or outhouse, that’s one thing, and that can be as sanitary as a port-a-potty and provide fertilizer for the fields. However, a large fraction of this (when you get to urban densities, practically all of it) is dumped untreated into rivers, laskes, and streams. The BOD overloads natural sources of oxygen, killing wildlife and turning the waterway anerobic, septic, and infectious.

    Access to clean water is the number 1 predictor of health. Without proper water treatment, typhoid, cholera, and all sorts of infectious diseases run rampant.

  8. You’re right that “different” and “unsanitary” are hardly synonyms. Of course the cistern flush toilet is only one way to deal with bodily waste. But dealing with bodily waste is not a false premise, it is a necessity of all communities. Cleaner disposal is healthier, as witness the drop in cholera rates as cities developed decent disposal systems. If a community lacks clean disposal of human waste, I expect it will have a lot more of diarrheal diseases.

  9. A false premise is behind all of this. Us toileted people equate toilets with sanitary. Half of the world doesn’t do it the way we do. That DOES NOT MAKE THEM UNSANITARY. Just different.

  10. Clean water is a priority project for Rotary International. Private care — I’m dodging the word “charity” — and private development may well succeed long before international bodies will.

  11. Howdy Gamecock
    I beg to differ. We might not define the 60% as in crisis since the problem is millenia old, but the fact is that dirty water is a factor, a big factor, in short life expectancy.

  12. The UN is not interested because there is no glamor (or money) in jetting around the globe to talk about privies, and because the associated gases and their effects are already known to all – no scare potential.

  13. “But proper water works — clean water into homes and businesses, dirty water treated before it’s released into the wild — are critical for public health.”

    That is false on the face of it. Half the world doesn’t have it. Is half the world in public health crisis? Of course not.

  14. The UN plans to correct this by getting to where 9 in 10 people lack access. It’s just not fair that some people have toilets, and some don’t, so they must be removed from all but the political class.

    I wonder how much of this movement (pun intended) is elites not liking the way people live, and attempting to force them to live the way they want them to. I.e., it may not be love based, but rather contempt based.

  15. It sounds like a joke at first. But proper water works — clean water into homes and businesses, dirty water treated before it’s released into the wild — are critical for public health. When the Thames was basically an open sewer, infectious diseases meant that few people lived to forty.
    When the engine fire reduced power on the Carnival Triumph, the water works were among the first things curtailed. For four or five days, that was a smelly inconvenience. As a way of life, it’s wretched. Having used latrines and carried water to be treated for drinking and washing, I know whereof I speak.
    But clean water is an industrial, energy-intensive system. You need pipes, pumps, treatment equipment, chemicals, money.
    Robert Heinlein once defined good plumbing as the finest flower of decadence. He was right.

  16. Really, 40% of the population of the world has access to flush toilets. I had no idea it was that high.

  17. We needed a study for this?! 20 years ago a daughter of mine spent the summer in Brazil – in a not very remote location – showing the locals how to dig latines. Geesh…

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