Saturday, October 08, 2011

Inadequate hygienic toilets cost Bangladesh $4B in health bill

SALEEM SAMAD

DISMAL SANITATION facilities for the poor costs Bangladesh $4.22 billion every year in health-related economic impacts and cultural development, according to a study by the World Bank.

The report, “The Economic Impacts of Inadequate Sanitation in Bangladesh,” reveals that the total amount of these losses is five times higher than the country's national health budget and three times higher than the national education budget in 2007.

The report, released Thursday, says that premature death and the ill effects of poor access to hygienic toilets contributed 84 percent of the total cost.

The report also cites the productive time lost in accessing sanitation facilities or sites for defecation, as well as drinking water-related impacts.

Diarrhea and cholera result in the biggest health-related economic impact from poor sanitation, accounting for two-thirds of the total cost, the report said. Acute lower respiratory infections account for about 15 percent.

Bangladesh's basic sanitation coverage rose from 33.2 percent in 2003 to 80.4 percent in 2009. This report shows that despite great success, much can still be done in the sanitation sector of Bangladesh, observed Ellen Goldstein, the bank's country director in Bangladesh.

The bank’s Water Sanitation Program urges Bangladesh authorities to pay attention to investments in better hygiene. A comprehensive sanitation and hygiene interventions can result in preventing 61 percent of the economic loss due to health impacts linked to sanitation and all the adverse impacts of inadequate sanitation related to water and welfare losses.

Efforts to improve sanitation could yield a potential gain of about $2.26 billion, the equivalent to 3.4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), the report states. This implies a potential gain of $15.9 per capita.

Bangladesh follows other South Asian nations such as India, Pakistan, Nepal, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka in having appalling sanitation facilities for the urban and rural poor.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He specializes in Jihad, forced migration, good governance and elective democracy. He has recently returned from exile after living in Canada for six years. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com