The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 February 2013
The Government of Sierra Leone is failing to keep its promises on funding for sanitation, a new report by the international development charity – WaterAid has revealed. 1.5 million more Sierra Leoneans lack access to sanitation today, than in 1990.
The report warns that unless investment is increased, the challenges of urbanisation, inequality of access, climate change and population growth risk turning back the clock even further.
From 1990 to 2010, the population of Sierra Leone grew by 1.8 million, however only 325,000 people secured access to sanitation over the same period.
In total, over 5.1 million out of 5.8 million people – 87% of the population – are without access to a safe toilet. 27% use shared latrines – while 28% practice open defecation.
With such shocking statistics, will the government take urgent action to increase its spending on sanitation, in order to avert further explosion of public health related diseases in the country?
The ‘Keeping promises: why African leaders need now to deliver on their past water and sanitation commitments’ report, uses the Government’s own figures to demonstrate that funding on sanitation has fallen short of their public commitments.
According to estimates from the Government of Sierra Leone, average annual expenditure on water and sanitation almost doubled between 2008 and 2011, and water and sanitation expenditure was on average 1.3% of GDP during that period.
However, expenditure on sanitation was only 0.01% of GDP in 2012(3). This is far short of the 0.5% of GDP that the Government committed to spending on sanitation alone, through the ‘2008 eThekwini African Union declaration’.
The WaterAid report calls on the Government of Sierra Leone, alongside other African governments, to not only meet their 2008 eThekwini spending commitments of 0.5% of GDP, but to go further by aiming to spend at least 1% of GDP on sanitation and hygiene, in line with the recommendations of a 2011 World Bank report.
The United Nations Development Programme has estimated that developing country Governments could be losing as much as 5% of their GDP, because of the lack of access to sanitation and water.
Apollos Nwafor, WaterAid Team Leader in Sierra Leone said:
“Sierra Leoneans waste 300 million hours every year looking for somewhere to go to the toilet, and you can add to this – the costs of illness and medical bills of those contracting diseases, due to the unhygienic conditions.
“Overall, the loss to Sierra Leone is likely to run into the hundreds of billions of Leones per year. Now is the time for the Government to meet its financial commitments on sanitation, and end sanitation and water poverty and its daily toll on human life, health and livelihoods.”
After five years of making public the government’s commitment in tackling poor sanitation and water poverty, little progress has been made on separate budget lines for spending on sanitation and water, which is another key commitment made as part of the eThekwini declaration to improve accountability and track progress.
Millions of dollars spent annually on expensive drugs and health administration in Sierra Leone, to combat childhood and maternal mortality, will remain ineffective, should the lack of access to proper sanitation and clean, safe drinking water continue.