November 21, 2007 / 1:16 AM / 12 years ago

U.N. urges investment to boost sanitation for poor

A Nigerian child squats by an open sewer in the neighbourhood of Isale-Eko in central Lagos, April 14, 2007. Investing $10 billion a year could halve the proportion of people without basic toilet facilities by 2015, an issue that affects 2.6 billion people worldwide, the United Nations said on Tuesday. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Investing $10 billion a year could halve the proportion of people without basic toilet facilities by 2015, an issue that affects 2.6 billion people worldwide, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

“An estimated 42,000 people die every week from diseases related to low water quality and an absence of adequate sanitation,” U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement announcing 2008 as the Year of Sanitation.

The world body is calling for a renewed effort to improve sanitation to meet international commitments made in the U.N. Millennium Development Goals in 2000.

Lack of clean and safe sanitation leads to diarrhea and other diseases and has a particular impact on women and girls in developing countries who can be vulnerable to attack or deterred from going to school because of a lack of proper facilities, the U.N. statement said.

“Investing approximately $10 billion per year can halve the proportion of people without basic sanitation by 2015,” it said.

The U.N.’s drive for better sanitation will involve regional conferences and public campaigns to raise awareness and implement projects to improve sanitation in developing countries through public and private partnerships.

UK-based charity WaterAid said the absence of clean toilet facilities, access to safe water and efficient sanitation was directly related to the spread of diseases that killed 1.8 million children a year.

“There is compelling evidence that sanitation brings the single greatest return on investment of any development intervention — roughly $9 for every $1 spent,” it said.

It estimated the economic cost of not investing in sanitation and clean water at $38 million a year resulting from infant deaths, lost work days and school absences due to disease.

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