Friday, April 23, 2010

India Has More Cell Phones Than Toilets

India's mobile phone subscribers have now exceeded 563 million, enough to serve nearly half of the country's 1.2 billion population. But just 366 million people ( about a third of the population) had access to proper sanitation in 2008, according to a study by the United Nations University.

"It is a tragic irony to think in India, a country now wealthy enough that roughly half of the people own phones," so many people "cannot afford the basic necessity and dignity of a toilet," said U.N. University official Zafar Adeel.

Poor sanitation is a major contributor to water-borne diseases, which in the past three years alone killed an estimated 4.5 million children under the age of five worldwide. The cost to build a toilet, including labor, materials and advice, is about $300 The world could expect a return of up to $34 for every dollar spent on sanitation through improved productivity and reduced poverty and health costs, said Adeel.

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