NAIROBI (Xinhua) – Kenya’s loses 324 million U.S. dollars (Sh27bn) or 0.9 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually due to poor sanitation caused mainly by premature deaths, a new World Bank report released on Tuesday has said. The report by the Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) found that 2.1 million Kenyans use unsanitary or shared latrines, 5.6 million have no latrine at all and defecate in the open, and that the poorest quintile is 270 times more likely to practice open defection than the richest.

“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 WSP. The desk study, Economic Impacts of Poor Sanitation in Africa- Kenya, says that the East African nation will not be able to grow sustainably without addressing these costs.

The study said current sanitation investment in Kenya is between 0.1 percentage points or 0.5 of GDP which is lower than several estimates for what is required. Increased investments in sanitation and hygiene promotion are required not only to realize health and welfare benefits of sanitation but also to avert large economic losses, the Bank said in the report. “Open defecation not only has higher costs than any other sanitation practice, it has considerable adverse social impacts. Low cost and effective ways of stopping open defecation need to be scaled up,” the report which was released in Nairobi says.

The study found that the majority (75 percent) of these costs (324 million dollars) come from the annual premature death of 23, 000 Kenyans from diarrheal disease, including 17,100 children under the age of five, nearly 90 percent of which is directly attributable to poor water, sanitation, and hygiene. The report said health-related costs accounted for 6.5 percent of the total economic costs, while access time and productivity losses accounted for about 8.8 percent.

Traditionally, the Bank said sanitation has not received the priority it deserves but it has not been widely recognized how good sanitation policies and practices can underpin socio-economic development and environmental protection. The study provides an estimation of economic impacts on populations without access to improved sanitation in order to provide information on the losses to society of the current sanitation situation.

“While not all these economic impacts can be immediately recovered from improved practices, it provides a perspective on the economic gains that are available to countries through a range of policies to mitigate these impacts over the longer term,” the study found. The study comes as some 60 ministers responsible for finance, sanitation and hygiene portfolios from over 30 developing countries, including Kenya will participate in the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) High Level Meeting on April 20 at the World Bank in Washington.

Their aim is to agree on urgent action towards ensuring that access to sanitation and safe drinking water becomes a reality for the billions of people who still live without them. (Xinhua)

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