The Economic Costs of Poor Sanitation in Ghana

Poor sanitation costs Ghana US$290 million each year according to a desk study carried out by the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP). This sum is the equivalent of US$12 per person in Ghana per year or 1.6% of the national GDP – based on 2012 estimates and utilization of conservative numbers.

Some shocking stats:

  1. 16 million (62%) of Ghanaians use unsanitary or shared latrines.
  2. 8 million have no latrines at all and defecate in the open.
  3. The poorest 20% of the population are 22 times more likely to practice open defecation than the wealthiest 20% of the population
  4. Open defecation costs Ghana US$79 million per year – yet eliminating the practice would require less than 1 million latrines to be built and used.
  5. Accra’s sewer system reaches less than 10% of the population, according to the World Bank. Garbage is dumped on the streets.
  6. Other Costs: (1) Epidemic Outbreak Costs – faecal contamination of the environment is the root cause of an annual average of 1,800 cases of cholera costing US$1.2m annually; (2) Funeral Costs – annual sanitation related funeral costs (discounted against future funeral costs) are estimated at US$2.9m annually; (3) Water Pollution – adverse impact of unsafe excreta disposal on water resources; (4) Cognitive Development – long-term economic losses related to the adverse effects of poor sanitation on cognitive development; (5) Tourism – addressing sanitation in Ghana could lead to an increase in travel and tourism of an estimated US$8.5 million annually.

Solution: The political will to innovate rather than react remains key.

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