Making Suffering Secondary?

A new World Bank study, Economic Impact of Inadequate Sanitation in India says it costs the country $54 billion a year not to have toilets and better hygiene. The cost entails not only premature deaths, especially of children, extra treatment for those who fall ill, wasted time and productivity but also lost tourism. In quantifying the losses of poor sanitation, the report shows that children and poor households bear the brunt of the problem. In rural areas, the report says, 50% have access to some improved sanitation and close to 575 million people defecate in the open. Urban areas fare somewhat better, 60 to 70% of households have access to some sanitation and 54 million people defecate in the open, but 60% of the waste water is discharged without being treated.
No doubt, quantifying the problem is a step in solving it, and surely it is an incentive for the government to address it. Yet, an observer such as myself can’t avoid noticing that we live in an era where the suffering no doubt associated with and resulting from a problem like poor sanitation is secondary to its economic impact.