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The Cost of Doing Business

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From the Sanitation Challenge Ghanasan blog: In the Western World, we rarely think of the cost of sanitation. But here in Kumasi, Ghana and much of this part of the world, the cost of sanitation is a daily (or several times a day) challenge. Though it’s hard to get entirely accurate pricing information, here’s a brief introduction to some of the various sanitation costs we’ve come across:
  • Public Toilets generally cost 3, 7, or 10 cents per visit, based on the quality of the facilities and whether or not a sheet of newspaper is supplied. Doing the math, for a family of five to use the mid-priced toilet twice a day it’d cost over $250 a year.
  • Bucket latrines (which don’t seem to exist much in Kumasi but are still relatively common in Accra) are more affordable to build (they’re basically a structure built around a bucket) but cost about $8 a month to empty. They’re generally shared between several families, though, so the cost is distributed.
  • Basic pit latrine installation in a home can cost as much as $700, not including periodically emptying the pit, which is very expensive as well.Emptying a pit latrine, which needs to be done every few years, involves hiring a vacuum truck, which costs about $100 per truckload (some households take 2-3 truckloads to empty).
  • Flush toilets, connected to the city’s sewer, are out of reach for most of the city. In fact, the sewers only serve a thousand or so houses in a city with a population of about 1.5 million. So, although we don’t have the numbers for the cost of installation and use, it’s almost irrelevant since it’s so inaccessible.

There’s plenty of variability in these numbers, so we take them with a grain of salt, but it’s clear that the cost of sanitation as it’s currently provided is out of reach for many households. It’s no wonder that the people often look for ways to save money on sanitation (flying toilets, only paying for defecation, open defecation, etc)
– Danny Alexander, IDEO Ghanasan Field Team
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Sanitation Challenge


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