Do You Have a Cell Phone or a Flush Toilet?

If you live in a developed country, this would seem like a stupid question because you probably have both. However, according to a 2013 United Nations report, only 4.5 billion of the world’s 7.2 billion people have a flush toilet or other means of adequate sanitation. Compare that to a report by Digital Trends saying that over 6.8 billion people are expected to have cell phones by the end of 2014, and soon there will be more cell phones than people.

The point of this message is not to criticize cell phones. They are becoming more useful every day — both in developed and developing countries. In many places, they are a lifeline.

Matt Damon is a famous U.S. actor and advocate for clean water and sanitation projects. He helped establish Some of his findings in 2011: Every 20 seconds, a child dies from a water-related disease. About 80% of sewage in developing countries is discharged without treatment. The average American uses 100 gallons of water daily; the average African uses 12 gallons per day. Nearly one billion people lack access to clean water. Millions of women and children spend several hours daily collecting water from distant, often polluted sources.

Think about this the next time you use a cell phone, flush a toilet, or turn on a water faucet.

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