Nepal WASH Blog Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) & Development in Nepal

January 5, 2011

Sanitation in Nepal – a long road ahead

Filed under: Livelihood,MDG,Sanitation — Kabir Das Rajbhandari @ 6:45 pm

Sanitation is finally being recognized as a priority on the development agenda. Water and Sanitation supply experts in particular are well aware that this hasn’t come too soon. A neglect of sanitation in this country has led to Nepal ranking as the lowest country in South Asia in terms of sanitation coverage. In statistical terms, this means 14 million people are deprived from basic sanitation services; that’s 51% of the population, and only 41% of public and community schools have toilet facilities.

So, why is this such an issue?

Firstly, poor sanitation leads to sickness and disease. Unsafe sanitation leads to higher rates of infant mortality and infections, contributes to malnutrition and generally a weaker human condition. Inadequate sanitation may actually be the biggest killer of children as 10,500 children die from diarrhea every year in Nepal before reaching their 5th birthday. We know that more than 80% of diseases are caused because of unsafe sanitation facilities and unhygienic practices. We also know that safe sanitation facilities can prevent diarrhea by 45%.

Secondly, a lack of sanitation limits economic growth. Without good sanitation, workers are less healthy and therefore less productive, living shorter lives and saving and investing less. Children are also less likely to attend school. Meeting the Millenium Development Goals’ (MDG) sanitation target would yield economic benefits. Even conservative estimates predict that adequate investments in sanitation could provide an additional 3% of economic growth.

We can breathe a small sigh of relief that it is finally becoming more widely understood that a lack of sanitation facilities in schools has led to low levels of female enrollment and to high levels of females dropping out of school. We can also be pleased that, as a direct result of the water and sanitation related MDG targets, the government in Nepal has also recognised sanitation in its PRSP targets, ‘All the people of Nepal will have sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2017.’

However, let’s not be too complacent. To achieve universal access to sanitation facilities by 2017 would require an annual investment of Rs. 7.5 billion. Fortunately, the current trend of budget investment is around Rs. 9.15 billion. The challenges then, are to ensure the government’s continued financial commitment, equitable distribution, ie ensuring that the finance is directed to low coverage districts, effective use of the allocated resources and also that sustainability mechanisms are in place.

Each year, since 2006, an average of 4 million people are provided with basic sanitation services. However, it is estimated that only 62% of initiatives taken for sanitation access are sustained. At this rate of drop-off, it will take until 2031 to achieve the national target, even if the financing trend does exceed requirements.

So yes, while there has indeed been progress, I urge us all to remember how far we still have to go to achieve as much recognition for sanitation as there now is for water supply.

Written by Kabir Rajbhandari, Programme Manager – Urban, WaterAid in Nepal

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