London: About 540 million children globally go to schools with no usable toilet, affecting them physically and emotionally during crucial education years, a new research based on survey of schools in four countries - Ecuador, India, Nigeria and the Philippines, showed.
The research from Economist Impact revealed that almost half of these children are affected by 'Toilet Loss' - toilets have been built in their school, but they have been lost and are not usable due to lack of operation and maintenance (O&M).
"This hidden worldwide problem puts school infrastructure maintenance sharply in focus", Economist Impact said.
"Toilet Loss" is a new way of quantifying the societal and economic cost of neglected toilets.
The study further found that poor maintenance led to 1.2m 'lost' school toilets meaning toilets that have been built but are no longer usable.
"This equates to a combined infrastructure loss of US$1.9bn and a societal and economic cost amounting to US$10bn", the researchers said.
"The four countries, indicative of others worldwide, could be 10% closer to the goal of providing all children access to usable school toilets if toilet construction had been supported by maintenance", they said.
This is the first time the far-reaching cost of poorly maintained school toilets has been quantified, incorporating healthcare expenditures for children sick with infections caused by poor sanitation, reduced family income from missed work and lost economic activity.
The world needs 20 mn additional toilets to reach the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal of universal sanitation in schools. Economist Impact analysis shows that eight million of those are currently 'lost' because they were built with no plan to maintain them.
Researchers from Economist Impact studied multiple investment approaches to meet this goal. They found that the most efficient and equitable way to accelerate progress is through a combination of smart investment in O&M and new construction, namely to ensure all toilets built always have a maintenance plan.
"In most countries, such a maintenance plan requires one additional cent of every dollar spent on education to make clean and safe toilets for all school children a reality by 2030", the study found.
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