Whenever you hear people lamenting the fact that we are not pouring out billions of dollars to combat a poorly understood environmental problem like global warming, you should remember this -- 2.6 Billion People Lack Basic Sanitation: UN Report:
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Some 2.6 billion people in the world, mainly in Africa and Asia, lack access to basic sanitation, increasing the risk of diarrhea and other diseases fatal to children, said a U.N. report released on Thursday.
UNICEF, the U.N. children's fund, in a study on water and sanitation in developing nations, concluded that U.N. goals could be met on clean water, especially in urban areas, but the same was not true for access to the crudest of toilets.
The report, Progress for Children, surveyed available clean water and sanitation facilities from 1990 to 2004 and calculated which countries could meet goals set at a U.N. Millennium summit in 2000.
These include cutting in half by 2015 the proportion of people without safe drinking water and basic sanitation.
"Despite commendable progress, an estimated 425 million children under the age of 18 still do not have access to an improved water supply and over 980 million do not have access to adequate sanitation, said Anne Veneman, UNICEF's executive director and a former U.S. secretary of agriculture.
Overall, about 1.2 billion people, or an increase from 78 percent in 1990 to 83 percent in 2004, had access to drinking water, a figure that would meet the Millennium goals.
Still, more than 1 billion people were without clean water in 2004 from sources such as wells or springs, a number which may increase as the population grows, the report said.
Although I believe that free enterprise capitalism allows us to generate ever-increasing amounts of wealth -- which can then be used to combat problems like these -- the truth is that at any given point in time there is only a finite amount of wealth and time that can be distributed among the various efforts undertaken to improve people's lives.
It seems to me that we should make sanitation -- a problem we already understand very well -- a top priority. Then we can worry about the other things.