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It is estimated that 20 million people living in rural areas do not have access to proper toilets, a report by the Economics of Sanitation Initiative (ESI) run by the World Bank's Water and Sanitation Programme revealed yesterday.
The four-year study was launched in 2007 in two phases.
Guy Hutton, a World Bank's senior economist, said the first phase of the study, which ended in 2008, showed that Viet Nam suffered economic losses of US$780 million each year due to poor sanitation.
The second phase focused on analysing the benefits and costs of better sanitation in six countries – Indonesia, Cambodia, China, Lao, Philippines and Viet Nam.
"The benefits of using hygienic latrines include reduced disease-infection rates due to poor sanitation and improved water supply quality due to the decrease in open defecation," said Nguyen Viet Anh, the study's consulting team leader.
Better protection for the environment is also believed to be another benefit, Anh said.
Another result of the study showed that sanitation quality had a direct link to tourism and economic development.
Under a recent small-scale survey, general sanitation conditions in Viet Nam were perceived to be poor, scoring just 2.9 out of maximum of 5.0, the lowest acceptable score for an urban environment.
The quality of toilets available in public places such as bus stations also scored poorly.
The main hygiene concerns of foreign tourists relate to tap water and food safety.
Guy Hutton said the study aimed to provide sanitation-decision makers with useful information when it came to formulating better hygiene policies, especially in rural areas where more than 30 per cent of the population still lacked basic sanitation.
The authorised agencies are advised to raise funds to provide better sanitation services, he said.
He said he hoped the study would attract greater private investment in sanitation services.
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