By Anne Mugisa
Uganda needs 650,000 more latrines to ensure that every Ugandan has access to a latrine.
Currently, at least 3.2 million Ugandans have no latrines at all and their place of convenience is the open space, according to the latest Work Bank report.
The report indicates that another 13.8 million Ugandans use unsanitary or share latrines. This poor sanitation is costing the country at least sh389bn annually.
The money lost in three years can meet the cost of building the latrines the country needs, which stands at sh1.3 trillion. Depending on depth and usage, each latrine takes not less than five years to fill, experts from Water Aid say.
A World Bank Water and Sanitation Programme report released on Tuesday said that the country is losing an equivalent of US$177m or 1.1% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) yearly due to poor sanitation.
It pointed out that open defecation costs Uganda US$41m yet eliminating the practice would require less than 650,000 latrines to be built and used.
According to the WB study, US$8.1m is lost each year in access time by people practicing open defecation because each spends almost 2.6 days a year finding a private location to defecate, leading to economic losses.
It said that the cost falls disproportionally on women as caregivers who may spend additional time accompanying young children or sick elderly relatives.
The report also showed that another US$147m is lost to premature deaths of approximately 23,000 Ugandans including 19,700 children under the age of five who die of diarrhea nearly 90% of which is attributable to poor water, sanitation and hygiene.
It said that besides, poor sanitation is contributing, through its impact on malnutrition rates, to other leading causes of child deaths including malaria, ALRI and measles, and also that US$1.1m is lost yearly due to productivity losses as a result of sickness.
The losses, according to the study, stem from absenteeism from work or school due to diarrheal diseases, seeking treatment and time spend caring for children under five years suffering from diarrhea or other sanitation attributable diseases.
US$21m is spent each year on health care for diarrheal disease directly and indirectly via malnutrition and other related health problems which puts a heavy burden on household and government spending.
Other hidden costs of poor sanitation include funeral costs for the dead due to diarrheal disease like cholera, dysentery and other related ailments, cost of containing outbreaks and water treatment costs.
The others are impairment of intellectual and cognitive development which have hidden long term economic and development implications. This is because poor sanitation and hygiene contribute to undernutrition, stunting and wasting of children due to malnutrition.
The report also pointed out that addressing sanitation would boost tourism which would translate into more revenue from it.
It also proposed recycling of excreta which exercise it said is potential for economic development.