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High cost of bad sanitation leaves Laos millions poorer

Associated Press - July 3, 2009

Michael Casey, Bangkok Laos is losing nearly $250 million a year, or 5.6 per cent of its gross domestic product, due to poor sanitation and the resulting disease that come from dirty water and a lack of toilets.

Guy Hutton, a senior economist with the World Bank's Water and Sanitation Program, said a World Bank study found that the largest share of the losses comes from the cost of treating 3 million cases of disease each year linked to poor sanitation as well as the 6000 premature deaths.

Other costs are the expense of having to build wells and buy bottled water to ensure clean drinking water and the detrimental impact that rubbish and polluted rivers have on tourism.

The Laos Health Ministry has announced that it plans to step up construction of water systems and toilets.

Despite a major injection of foreign aid in the past two decades, Laos remains one of the poorest countries in Asia.

Laos spends just 1 cent for every $US4 of government budget on rural sanitation, according to the World Bank. At the same time, the World Bank notes, it is making progress increasing the numbers of households with toilets from 11 per cent in 1990 to 48 per cent in 2006. By 2010 the government has a goal of installing 80,000 toilets, 5000 wells and 1000 gravity-fed water systems.

It is part of a campaign to ensure that 90 per cent of the population in rural and urban areas has access to clean water by 2020.

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