Experts estimate that $9 in productivity, health and other benefits are returned for every dollar invested installing toilets for people in countries that today are off-track in meeting the UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for sanitation.
Some argue that meeting the sanitation MDG is also a prerequisite to the goals of reducing global poverty.
Achieving the sanitation goal to simply halve the number of people without access to a toilet by 2015 would cost $38 billion, less than 1% of annual world military spending. That investment, however, would yield $347 billion worth of benefits much of it related to higher productivity and improved health.
According to UN figures, meeting the sanitation MDG target would add 3.2 billion annual working days worldwide. Universal coverage would add more than four times as many working days.
Some 2.6 billion people over a third of humanity lack access to adequate sanitation. Each of those devotes a conservatively estimated 30 minutes a day queuing for public toilets and / or seeking seclusion. The cumulative time involved equals about two working days per month.
A more drastic consequence, however, is the number of workdays lost to diarrhoeal disease either by ill workers or when she or he is caring for a sick child or relative.
In addition, many women avoid workdays during menstruation when workplaces have no toilets.
Diarrhoeal disease is a leading cause of death and illness, killing 1.8 million people each year. Poor hygiene and lack of access to sanitation together contribute to 88 per cent of all deaths from diarrhoeal disease, with children paying the highest price: 5,000 deaths a day. Hundreds of millions of other children suffer reduced physical growth and impaired cognitive functions due to intestinal worms.
Improved access to sanitation would also lead to very high avoided health sector costs, ac
|Contact: Terry Collins|
United Nations University