Friday, November 10, 2006

Straight Poop from the United Nations

The straight poop from the United Nations: The toilet, even a simple latrine, could save millions of lives a year at the mere cost of a Dasani.

A new U.N. report bowls us over by suggesting that the most underused tool for preventing disease in the Third World is the toilet.

Two million children die every year due to the effects of water laden with human waste. As the New York Times puts it, "More than a third of the world's people -- 2.6 billion -- have no decent place to go to the bathroom."

U.N. expert Kevin Watkins gets right down to the nitty gritty: "Issues dealing with human excrement tend not to figure prominently in the programs of political parties contesting elections or the agendas of governments. They're the unwanted guests at the table." (Actually, American political contests feature excrement by the shovelful, but only in advertising, not substance.)

If you think a public discussion of doo-doo is embarrassing, try this: According to the U.N. report, the annual price of providing sanitation and clean drinking water for the toilet-less is the same as what we spend on bottled water in America alone.

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