31 January 2013

Liberia: U.S.$260 Billion Losses - On Poor Water, Sanitation

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Wednesday addressed the future of the international poverty reduction warning the High Panel delegates that every year US$260 billion is lost globally due to poor water and sanitation.

The President who is one of three co-Chairs of the UN Secretary-General's High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the post-2012 Development Agenda to the delegation: $US 260 billion in economic losses annually is directly linked to inadequate water supply and sanitation around the world.

Speaking at the Bele Casa hotel in Sinkor, the president told delegates "We must take this issue more seriously."

The Liberian leader added : "Too often access to adequate sanitation in particular is seen as an outcome of development, rather than a drive of economic development and poverty reduction. South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore in the 1960's and 1970's demonstrated the potential for boosting economic development by addressing sanitation."

President Sirleaf's opening address at the forum came during the High-Level Panel meeting which was broadly focused on the theme: "Economic Transformation."

The Panel, which includes 27 leaders from government, the private sector and civil society, is co-chaired by UK Prime Minister David Cameron, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia and President Sirleaf.

The group is tasked with producing a report in May to the Secretary-General containing recommendations for a development agenda for the world.

The current Millennium Development Goal targets on water and sanitation have had starkly different levels of progress and political and financial support. While the drinking water target to halve the production of people worldwide without access to safe drinking water was met five years in 2010, the sanitation goal is decades off track.

Records show that progress in Africa specifically is even worse with sub-Sahara Africa expected to meet this goal a century and a half late.

Reports have also revealed that Liberia is in many ways typical of sub-Sahara Africa countries, with access to safe drinking water at 73% of the population, far exceeding levels of access to decent sanitation, at only 18%. The average across sub-Sahara Africa to these services sits at 61% for water but just 30% for sanitation.

President Sirleaf who is Goodwill Ambassador for water, sanitation and hygiene in Africa also said "Without more progress in providing access to safe water and effective sanitation, children will continue to miss school, health costs will continue to be a drag in national economies, adults will continue to miss work, and women and girls, and it's almost always women and girls, will continue to spend hours every day fetching water, typically from dirty sources."

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