Sanitation investment of 1 dollar in poor countries would return 9 dollars in productivity, health and other benefits, say UN experts.
Experts said that for every dollar invested installing toilets for people in countries that today are off-track in meeting the UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for sanitation will return 9 dollars in productivity, health and other benefits.
Some argue that meeting the sanitation MDG is also a prerequisite to the goals of reducing global poverty.
Achieving the sanitation goal - to simply halve the number of people without access to a toilet by 2015 - would cost 38 billion dollars, less than 1 percent of annual world military spending.
That investment, however, would yield 347 billion dollars worth of benefits - much of it related to higher productivity and improved health.
According to UN figures, meeting the sanitation MDG target would add 3.2 billion annual working days worldwide. Universal coverage would add more than four times as many working days.
Some 2.6 billion people - over a third of humanity - lack access to adequate sanitation. Each of those devotes a conservatively estimated 30 minutes a day queuing for public toilets and / or seeking seclusion. The cumulative time involved equals about two working days per month.
According to various studies, children living in an environment where sanitation facilities are provided learn more than children suffering from worm infections, which sap nutrients and calories and lead to listlessness and trouble concentrating.
Also, schools without private and separate sanitation facilities for boys and girls have higher incidence of diarrheal disease but also lower attendance and a higher dropout rate.
Many UN studies have shown that public- and private-sector investment into sanitation can lead to economic benefits for communities. In particular, small entrepreneurs can benefit from infrastructure development. That, in turn, requires enabling policies to be in place.