On the eve of World Water Day last week, the U.N. offered a sobering statistic: according to its recent study, more people on earth have access to cell phones than toilets.
Out of the world’s estimated 7 billion people, 6 billion have access to mobile phones. Far fewer — only 4.5 billion people — have access to working toilets. Of the 2.5 billion who don’t have proper sanitation, 1.1 billion defecate in the open, according to the study.
U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said in a statement that this is a global crisis that people “don’t like to talk about.” He said the U.N. is trying to cut in half the number of people without access to clean toilets by 2015 and eliminate by 2025 the practice of open defecation, which is linked to many diseases.
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According to Yahoo, India alone is responsible for 60% of the global population lacking access to basic sanitation. About half of its 1.2 billion residents are mobile subscribers, but only 366 million people (about one-third of its population) have access to toilets, noted a 2010 U.N. report.
Last August, Bill Gates launched the “Reinvent the Toilet” campaign to reduce the number of children who die as a result of sanitation problems. According to the Los Angeles Times, in 2011 the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation offered $42 million to researchers, asking them to build the toilet of tomorrow — one that is safe, hygienic, uses little water and is easy to install.