Poor sanitation costs Ghana GH¢420 million a year
Ghana’s economy loses GH¢420 million each year (US$290 million, 1.6 percent of GDP) each year due to poor sanitation, according to a report today released by the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Programme (WSP).
The desk study, Economic Impacts of Poor Sanitation in Africa – Ghana, found that the majority (74 percent) of these costs come from the annual premature deaths of 19,000 Ghanaians from diarrheal disease, including 5,100 children under the age of 5, nearly 90 percent of which is directly attributable to poor water, sanitation, and hygiene.
Health-related costs accounted for nearly 19 percent of the total economic costs, while access time and productivity losses accounted for about 7 percent.
We have 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 the WSP. “Ghana will not be able to grow sustainably without addressing these costs,” he warned.
The study also found 4.8 million Ghanaians had no latrine at all and defecate in the open, and that the poorest quintile is 22 times more likely to practice open defecation than the richest.
According to the report, 18 African countries are 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% and 2.5% 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 added.
“Other impacts of inadequate sanitation likely to be significant, but difficult and expensive to estimate, and therefore, not included, 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.”
Open defecation alone accounts for almost US$2 billion in annual losses in 18 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% 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.”
The poorest people have to pay disproportionately more for the negative effects of poor sanitation.
In most countries, current investments in sanitation are less than 0.1% of GDP
According to the 2011 eThekwini commitments monitoring carried out by countries, currently, only five of the 18 countries analyzed invest more than 0.1% of GDP in sanitation. Most countries invest less than 0.1% of GDP.
Although African countries are committed to increasing their budgetary allocations for sanitation to at least 0.5% of GDP (eThekwini Declaration, 2008), none of the 18 countries surveyed has reached that target yet.
These findings make a strong case for increased investments in sanitation, increased attention to the bottlenecks constraining delivery of sanitation services, specific pro-poor policies, and the elimination of open defecation.
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