BY EDMUND SMITH-ASANTE
|President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf|
Nobel Peace Prize winner and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has stated that contrary to widely held views that adequate sanitation is derived from development, improved sanitation is rather a driver of economic development.
She disclosed that as a result of inadequate sanitation, the world economically loses $260 billion dollars annually.
The President, who is one of three co-Chairs of the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, stated on Wednesday, 30 January 2013: “$260 billion in economic losses annually is directly linked to inadequate water supply and sanitation around the world. We must take this issue more seriously.”
“All too often access to adequate sanitation in particular is seen as an outcome of development, rather than a driver of economic development and poverty reduction. South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore in the 1960’s and 1970’s demonstrated the potential for boosting economic development by addressing sanitation,” she added.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf made the comments during the High-level Panel meeting in Monrovia, which was broadly focused on the theme of “economic transformation”.
Also the Goodwill Ambassador for water, sanitation and hygiene in Africa, Liberia’s President warned:“Without more progress in providing access to safe water and effective sanitation, children will continue to miss school, health costs will continue to be a drag on national economies, adults will continue to miss work, and women and girls, and it’s almost always women and girls, will continue to spend hours every day fetching water, typically from dirty sources.”
Commenting on the work of the UN Secretary-General’s Panel of Eminent Persons, Girish Menon, Director of International Programmes for the international water and sanitation charity WaterAid, said:“The High Level Panel must grasp this unique opportunity to put together an ambitious vision for eradicating poverty in our time. For this aspiration to be realised there must be a central focus on achieving universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene.”
WaterAid’s Director stated that while “International efforts on the existing Millennium Development Goals have shown that to succeed in areas like education, child health and gender equality, progress on access to water, sanitation and hygiene is crucial,” “Integrating these approaches will be the key to success.”
The Panel includes 27 leaders from government, the private sector and civil society and is co-chaired by UK Prime Minister David Cameron, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia and President Sirleaf.
The group is tasked with producing a report in May to the Secretary-General containing recommendations for a development agenda for the world.
Meanwhile, the current Millennium Development Goal targets on water and sanitation have had starkly differing levels of progress and political and financial support and though the drinking water target - to halve the proportion of people worldwide without access to safe drinking water - was met five years early in 2010, the sanitation goal is decades off track. Current statistics show that progress in Africa specifically is even worse, with sub-Saharan Africa expected to meet this goal a century and a half late.
Typical of sub-Saharan African countries, Liberia’s access to safe drinking water is presently at 73% of the population, which far exceeds levels of access to decent sanitation, which is now only at 18%, while the average across sub-Saharan Africa to these services sits at 61% for water but just 30% for sanitation.
This is in spite of a statement in a 2012 WaterAid report that the lives of 2.5 million people around the world would be saved every year if everybody had access to safe water and adequate sanitation.
In that same report, WaterAid has also highlighted that if governments meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) to halve the proportion of their population without sanitation by 2015, the lives of 400,000 children under the age of five will be saved around the world, with over 100,000 being saved in Nigeria, and 66,000 in India alone.