There are more cellphones on earth than toilets.

According to a UN report, 6 of 7 billion people in the world have cell phones, while just 4.5 billion have access to a toilet or latrine.

While that might seem like a strange comparison, it is precisely that stark contrast that is so interesting... and demands an explanation. And considering today is World Water Day, it's something we should be talking about.

Quartz points out that in Indonesia, for example, it's pretty normal to see someone in a metal roofed shack without a bathroom checking Facebook on a phone. And though many countries' governments aren't responding to basic needs in terms of infrastructure, tech companies will damn well get phones in people's hands.

Consider that over 1.1 billion people live in countries where defecating in the open is still a very common practice. The inevitable health consequences include diarrhea and other illnesses that kill 4,500 children worldwide each and every day. But those exact same families will have cell phones.

Cell phones themselves are not the problem of course. The real point is that it is a great deal easier, and critically also more lucrative, to build a mobile network than it is to build adequate sanitation in underdeveloped communities. The UN is working to improve the situation and since 1990, a total of 1.8 billion people have gotten access to better sanitation.

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As part of the response, MSABI is developing in rural Tanzania,  a replicable and expandable model for the implementation of cost-efficient, community-based water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programs. 

Since commencing field operations in 2009, MSABI has completed the installation of 250 new water points, providing safe water to an estimated 50,000 disadvantaged rural Tanzanians. MSABI education teams have reached more than 195,000 people through school and community education activities. Our sanitation program has installed 25 wastewater treatment systems for private people and schools, providing safe sanitation to around 5,000 people.

We continue to work with a local women's group manufacturing clay filter pots for water treatment.  MSABI also mapped and assessed more than 1,200 existing water points, allowing identification of underserviced areas and more focused and targeted interventions.  Today MSABI has a growing team of 65 staff – of whom >90% are Tanzanian.  

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Jean-Paul MoutonComment