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Nigeria, 17 other countries lose $5.5b to poor sanitation

Nigeria and 17 other African countries are losing around US$5.5 Billion annually to inadequate sanitation

A new report on the economic impacts of inadequate sanitation, released yesterday by the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program (WSP), unless the affected countries address this cost which represents between 1%-2.5% of their Gross Domestic Product, they will not be able to develop sustainablt.

The desk study on the ‘Economic Impacts of Poor Sanitation’ in Africa which covered Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Republic of Congo, Liberia, Madagascar, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia, found the majority of these costs to production come from annual premature deaths, including children under the age of five, due to diarrheal disease.

Nearly 90 percent of these deaths are directly attributable to poor water, sanitation, and hygiene. Other significant costs were productivity losses from poor sanitation, and time lost through the practice of open defecation. Adverse impacts of inadequate sanitation that are likely to be significant, but difficult and expensive to estimate, include the costs of epidemic outbreaks; losses in trade and tourism revenue; impact of unsafe excreta disposal on water resources; and the long-term effects of poor sanitation on early childhood development.

The Africa country reports, part of the Economics of Sanitation Initiative (ESI) launched initially in East Asia in 2007, also found that open defecation alone accounts for almost US$2 billion in annual losses in the 18 countries. Lacking alternatives, more than 114 million people still defecate in the open in the 18 countries surveyed; this is about half the number of people on the continent who have no latrine at all and almost 24 percent of the total population in the countries surveyed.

Eliminating the practice of open defecation in these countries would require about 23 million toilets to be built and used. Open defecation costs more per person than any other type of unimproved sanitation. Time lost to finding a discrete location to use the toilet accounted for almost US$500 million in economic losses. Women shoulder a huge proportion of this cost as they spend additional time accompanying young children or sick or elderly relatives.

“Water and sanitation go hand-in-hand with human dignity. Our study finds that the heaviest burden of poor sanitation falls on poor people,” says Jamal Saghir, World Bank Director for Sustainable Development in the Africa Region.

“These findings make an irresistible case for greater investment in sanitation while removing the barriers to better sanitation services. Now is the time to tackle this urgent development priority once and for all.”

In most countries, current investments in sanitation are less than 0.1 percent of GDP.

Only five of the 18 African countries surveyed invest between 0.1 percent and 0.5 percent of GDP in sanitation. Although African countries committed to increase their budgetary allocations for sanitation to at least 0.5 percent of GDP (eThekwini Declaration, 2008), none of the 18 countries surveyed has reached that target yet.

The release of the study comes ahead of the biannual high-level meeting of the Sanitation and Water for All partnership at the Spring Meetings of the IMF and World Bank, where Finance and Water Sector Ministers aim to identify steps to improve the use of existing funds and mobilize new resources for water and sanitation.

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