Fast-growing Asian economies may be flush with money but filthy toilets remain a blight across the region despite rising standards of living, with dire effects on poverty reduction and public health. Social activists say dismal sanitation facilities are causing preventable diseases in poor communities where people would readily spend money on a mobile phone — but not on a latrine.
“I think it’s very prevalent,” said Jack Sim, a Singaporean businessman who founded the sanitation advocacy group World Toilet Organisation. “The handphone is the competitor of the toilet.” Asia has led the rebound from the 2008-2009 global recession and major institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund are predicting strong economic growth in the years ahead.
US business magazine Forbes says Asia now has the second largest population of billionaires worldwide at 332, behind the United States’ 413 while leapfrogging Europe’s 300. But in Asia’s teeming urban slums and impoverished villages, toilet facilities are either non-existent or rudimentary. “The lack of good toilets as well as sanitation is still a problem in Asia,” said Babar Kibir of Bangladesh-based BRAC, one of the world’s biggest non-government organisations. Sanitation has an “immense effect” on poverty reduction, Kibir said. “It has linkages with poverty, child mortality, combating disease and environmental sustainability,” the director of BRAC’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Programme, or WASH, told AFP.
With all of that wealth, they should be able to turn water into wine!
Dave Matthews-Water into Wine