In a world in which 14 percent of the population in the 21st century still defecate outdoors, children remain among the most vulnerable to a lack of toilets, contamination from human waste and dirty water.

The young are suffering the brunt of a health and development crisis that has claimed the lives of at least 10 million children under the age of five since 2000 because they have no access to a basic toilet, according to a new report from the international development organization WaterAid.

The United Nations, which designated today as World Toilet Day to highlight sanitation as a developmental priority, says about 35 percent — 2.5 billion of the planet’s 7 billion people — live without basic sanitation facilities such as toilets and latrines. That’s at a time when more people have mobile phones on Earth than a toilet. Globally, an estimated 1.8 billion drink fouled water that’s faecally contaminated, according to World Health Organization/UNICEF figures.

Yet the water and sanitation picture isn’t all grim, said Jack Sim, the Singapore-based founder of the World Toilet Organization that spurred today’s UN events. From 1990 to 2012, 2.3 billion people around the world gained access to an improved drinking-water source, according to UN-Water data.

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