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Sanitation Saves Lives

For many people around the world, November 19, “World Toilet Day”, was a day to celebrate. Some 2.6 billion people worldwide have one thing in common—they do not have access to sanitation—but the World Bank and the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) are helping change that.

Worldwide, about 1.7 million deaths a year—90 percent of which are children—are attributed to unsafe water, poor sanitation and hygiene, mainly through infectious diarrhea.  Access to sanitation, the practice of good hygiene, and a safe water supply could save 1.5 million children a year.  Improved sanitation increases primary school enrollment, reduces illnesses so children miss fewer school days, increases productivity among adults, provides safety to women, and reduces the pollution of water resources. The costs of environmental and health degradation due to inadequate water and sanitation services have been estimated at more than 1 percent of GDP in Colombia, 0.6 percent in Tunisia, and 1.4 percent in Bangladesh.  Kathy Sierra, vice president for Sustainable Development, added “by working to provide environmentally and socially responsible solutions to the sanitation crisis we can help bring a sustainable future to the people who need it most.” A soon-to-be-released WSP study found that poor sanitation is responsible for at least $9 billion in economic losses per year in four studied countries—Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. The study confirmed that the most important impact of poor sanitation is an increased risk of infectious disease and premature death, accounting for more than $4.8 billion of these losses, or $12 per capita annually. The costs of domestic wastewater pollution reach $2.3 billion in these countries.

International Year of Sanitation

Kicking off on November 21 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, the International Year of Sanitation will help generate awareness among policy makers and the general public about the sanitation crisis. Jamal Saghir, director of Energy Transport and Water, will join the UN launch and has said, “2008 will be a sharp reminder to the international community that we need to work together to provide hygienic sanitation service to the billions of people who are living without it.”

Throughout the International Year of Sanitation and with the help of WSP, four regional ministerial-level conferences will take place to encourage cross-regional dialogue and spur political action: LatinoSan in Colombia, EASan in Japan, AfricaSan in South Africa, and SACOSan in India.
Contact Name: 
Heather Worley
Contact Email: 
wsp@worldbank.org