International cooperation in the service of a good cause is still an all-too-rare phenomenon, but there is perhaps one objective above all which the world’s major countries have neglected to a truly disturbing extent: sanitation. In Q4 2014, 2.5 billion humans are still without toilets – meaning that more people have access to mobile telephones than basic hygiene. Of the one-third of humanity which is directly affected by this outrageous omission, women and children fare especially badly: in some developing countries, females risk their lives merely to relieve themselves, while diarrhoea and dysentery are needlessly curtailing the existences of more under-fives than statisticians can accurately tally.
Quite apart from the obvious compassion deficit that this infrastructure issue graphically demonstrates, the lack of toilet facilities across large parts of Africa and Asia evinces a planet whose sense of priorities have been distorted beyond parody. Something has to be done with immediate immediacy to remedy one of humanity’s darkest and most perturbing problems – and after some contemplation, we at Mediolana think that we have the basis of a pretty decent blueprint to kick off the global push toward toilet technology transfer:
1. Reduce Insanity. While most countries spend significant amounts of money on things that no sane mind would sanction, the military budget of the United States of America takes some beating for the magnitude of its madness: US$640bn in 2013, or 37% of the world total – despite being surrounded by nations with which it is at peace. Even a small portion of this arms allocation could solve the globe’s sanitation crises at a stroke.
2. Bring Sanitation Giants On Board. Japan, Italy, Germany and Turkey are united by one thing in this context: particular expertise in toilet technology and legislation. Japan boasts world-leading toilet brands such as Toto; it has been mandatory to install bidets in new apartments in Italy since the 1970s; and both Germany and Turkey have conquered different parts of the toilet hygiene market. Between them, they should have enough knowledge to wash the world of its sanitation woes.
3. Solve State Capacity Problems. To its immense credit, recent moves to end the global sanitation disgrace once and for all can be traced back to Singapore: the UN’s 2013 designation of 19th November as World Toilet Day was an initiative proposed by the tidy ASEAN city-state. Singapore is one of few countries which is in the position to lecture other territories on how to move up the economic ladder – and increase state and public health capacity – through knowledge accumulation. Its counsel should be sought at every opportunity in trying to eradicate our planet’s sanitation mess – and take another crucial but ultimately basic step towards attaining the status of a Type 1 civilisation.