A few weekends ago my friend Sam, who works with Save the Children, was talking about his experience of working in Yemen. Sounded like a bit of a nightmare (‘kat’ or ‘chat’ a particular problem) and he said that it really didn’t help that many Yemenis have a perception that they are in a developed country (brought on, he thinks, by the proliferation of smart-phones and other superficial baubles of modernity). Because of this, they’re not too fussed about changing how they’re living. In response, he suggested the following two-point development index:
1. What do you eat?
2. Where do you sh*t?
If the answer to the former is ‘nothing but [insert low-nutrient carb]’ and the latter is ‘in a field’, then you’re not living in a developed country. In fact, when I mentioned this to some Nigerian colleagues they thought that question 2 might be sufficient.
My tongue is only lightly in my cheek in saying this. In India more than 50% of people defecate in fields, and yet India parades itself as an emerging nation – not developed, but taken seriously on the world stage. Of course, India also fails on a number of other metrics, but open-defecation is unequivocally bad for people and pretty easily solved. All nations, and maybe all concerned westerners, should strive to meet my friend Sam’s two point index. It’s a good place to start.