Sanitation and Structural Violence

An Indian boy defecates in the open, New Delhi, India

In her article Oh, Shit! Mobile phones more common than toilets, Jen Barr, a student at Emory University earning her masters in global health and her PhD in medical anthropology, discusses the statistic of number of toilets in the world versus number of mobile phones. According to the Copenhagen Concensus report, there are more mobile phones than toilets in the world. This staggering fact demonstrates the significant increase and prevalence of mobile phones in commercialized areas and the lack of sanitation and treatment facilities around the world.

Barr discusses the problems associated with the treatment of wastes around the world: “In places like China, Tanzania, Kenya, Bangladesh, and India, waste is often handled by other humans with limited or no protection, leaving them at risk for a plethora of diseases and conditions and subjecting them to intense social stigma” (Barr).. According to Barr: “an estimated 2.5 billion people lack access to safe sanitation, and over 1.1 people defecate in the open” (Barr).

The exposure of people to these diseases and the poor infrastructure of their home countries present a form of structural violence. The countries affected are simply not equipped to deal with the large population of people dealing with sanitation policies. As described in’s article Sanitation in India: The Final Frontier public health is a large issue: “Open defecation is disastrous when practised by groups in close contact with each other. Because India’s population is huge, growing rapidly and densely settled, it is impossible even in rural areas to keep human faeces from crops, wells, food and children’s hands. Ingested bacteria and worms spread diseases, especially of the intestine”. In conclusion, the world is in need of safer sanitation processes that prevent the spread of diseases; potentially the numerous cell phones of the world could be used to spread the word about this global issue.