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Sanitation Scoops GH¢420m Annually

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Ghana’s economy loses GH¢420 million each year (US$290 million, 1.6 percent of GDP) due to poor sanitation, according to a report released today by the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Programme (WSP).

The desk study – Economic Impacts of Poor Sanitation in Africa – Ghana, found that 74 percent of the costs come from the annual premature death of 19,000 Ghanaians from diarrheal disease, including 5,100 children under the age of five, nearly 90 percent of which is directly attributable to poor water, sanitation, and hygiene.

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It revealed that health-related costs accounted for nearly 19 percent of the total economic costs while access time and productivity losses accounted for about seven percent.

“We’ve known for some time about the impact of poor sanitation on health, but this is one of the first studies to quantify the annual costs incurred because of poor sanitation,” said Yolande Coombes, Senior Water and Sanitation Specialist with WSP.

“Ghana will not be able to grow sustainably without addressing these costs,” he averred.

The study also found that 4.8 million Ghanaians had no latrine at all and defecate in the open.

It revealed that 18 African countries (Ghana inclusive) were losing about US$5.5 billion every year due to poor sanitation.

“These countries account for 448 million people, which is almost half of Africa’s population. The annual economic losses due to poor sanitation are equivalent to between 1 percent and 2.5 percent of GDP. The true cost could be much higher: these analyses only deal with losses due to premature deaths, healthcare costs, losses in productivity, and time lost through the practice of open defecation.” It explained that other impacts of inadequate sanitation that were likely to be significant, but difficult and expensive to estimate and therefore were not included, included 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.

Open defecation alone accounts for almost US$2 billion in annual losses in the 18 African countries.

“More than 114 million people still defecate in the open in the 18 countries analyzed, this is about half the number of people on the continent who have no latrine at all and defecate in the open 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.

“Each person without access to a toilet can spend up to 2.5 days a year finding a private location to defecate, resulting in losses totaling almost US$500 million in access time annually due to open defecation for the 18 countries surveyed.

“Women shoulder a huge proportion of this cost as they spend additional time accompanying young children or sick or elderly relatives to relieve themselves, as well as time spent finding a safe place for urination.”

The burden of poor sanitation falls disproportionately on the poor.

“In all countries, the poorest people are more likely to practice open defecation than the wealthiest people.

Currently, only five of the 18 countries analyzed invest more than 0.1 percent of GDP in sanitation. Most countries invest less than 0.1 percent of GDP.

“Although African countries committed to increase their budgetary allocations for sanitation to at least 0.5 percent of GDP, according to the eThekwini Declaration, 2008, none of the 18 countries surveyed has reached that target yet.

Source: Daily Guide/Ghana



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