While industrial society parents like me fret over the harm chemicals are causing our children, a reverse crisis is continuing in the Third World.
The lack of proper water treatment subsequently kills more than 2 million children around the world each year, reports The New York Times on a new United Nations report. A whopping 2.6 billion people around the globe pee and poop into rivers, plastic bags and topsoil rather than modern toilet facilities.
Five billion cases of childhood diarrhea, mostly caused by contaminated food and water, are reported each year, according the report, Human Development Report 2006 – Beyond Scarcity: Power, poverty and the global water crisis (pdf). I’d love to read the entire thing, but it is 440 pages long. Let’s just say that a quick scroll through it reveals an ugly world that most of us don’t want to hear about:
“At the start of the 21st century unclean water is the world’s second biggest killer of children. Every day millions of women and young girls collect water for their families – a ritual that reinforces gender inequalities in employment and education. Meanwhile, the ill health associated with deficits in water and sanitation undermines productivity and economic growth, reinforcing the deep inequalities that characterize current patterns of globalization and trapping vulnerable households in cycles of poverty.”
It would cost about $10 billion a year to cut the problem in half by 2015, according to the Times story. That’s $500 million a year from 20 industrialized nations.
But few Westernized nations are allocating that much for water. The big exception is Japan, whose $850 million a year accounts for one-fifth of the global total.
I’ve said this before, but if the $341 billion dollars that were spent on the Iraqi war had been spent on the water problem, it simply wouldn’t exist! Then 2.6 billion people out there might be saying thank you rather than Go Home Yankee.