Monday, March 19, 2012

Tanzania Paying Heavy Price for Indifference to Water, Sanitation by Edward Qorro

Dar es Salaam. Like most countries in Africa, Tanzania does not allocate enough resources for provision of water and sanitation services.This costs the country and its people dearly, The Citizen on Sunday can authoritatively report today.Late last year, WaterAid warned in a report dubbed Off-Track, Off-Target that governments in sub-Saharan Africa, including Tanzania, were unlikely to meet Millennium Development Goal (MDG) number seven.

The MDG targets to halve the number of people without access to sanitation by 2015.According to a  study of 2011 by the Water and Sanitation Programme (WSP), current sanitation investment in Tanzania is less than 0.1 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP).

 The WSP is a multi-donor partnership administered by the World Bank to support poor people in obtaining affordable, safe and sustainable access to water and sanitation services.The WSP study further reveals that poor sanitation costs the country about $206 million (over Sh323 billion) each year.

“The costs of poor sanitation are inequitably distributed with the highest economic burden falling disproportionately on the poorest. The average cost associated with poor sanitation constitutes a much greater proportion of a poor person’s income than that of a wealthier person,” reads part of the study titled Economic Impacts of Poor Sanitation in Africa.WSP further notes that the economic cost of poor sanitation is $5 (about Sh9,000) per person in Tanzania per year or one per cent of the national GDP.

The study further reveals that 26 million Tanzanians use unsanitary latrines or share them, while 5.4 million people have no latrines at all and defecate in the open. According to it, the poorest quintile is 41 times more likely to practise open defecation than the richest.

Open defecation costs Tanzania $46 million (about Sh73.6 billion); yet eliminating the practice would need about one million latrines to be built and used. Elaborating further on the cost of poor sanitation, the study has it that $14 million (about Sh21.9 billion) is lost each year in the country from the time spent finding a place to defecate.
The study says: “Each person practising open defecation spends almost 2.5 days a year finding a private location to defecate, leading to large economic losses. This cost falls disproportionately on women as caregivers who may spend additional time accompanying young children and/or sick or elderly relatives.

“This cost is likely to be an underestimation as those without toilets, particularly women, will be obliged to find a private location for urination as well.”
Another $171 million is lost annually due to premature deaths. WSP says some 26,500 Tanzanians, including 18,500 children under five, die each year from diarrhoea. Among them almost 90 per cent are directly attributed to poor water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

In addition, poor sanitation is a contributing factor – through its impact on malnutrition rates – to other leading causes of child mortality including malaria and measles, the study explains.

Tanzania also loses $1.6 million each year due to productivity losses while sick or accessing healthcare. This includes the time absent from work or school because of suffering from diarrhoea, seeking treatment from a health clinic or hospital, and time spent caring for under-fives suffering from diarrhoea or other diseases attributed to sanitation.
The loss from resources spent on healthcare amounts to $19 million a year.

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