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Under-nutrition in children and WASH

For children under the age of five, good nutrition and water-borne disease fight to the death.

 

A healthy diet plays a valuable role in our lives, providing the energy and nutrients we need to power us through the day. For children, the importance of good nutrition in the early stages of their lives is crucial for the development of a child’s bones, muscles, brains, and nerves.

For some children in the developing world, acquiring proper nutrition is a daily struggle, challenged by two major opponents: food scarcity and water-borne disease. The World Health Organization1 estimates that 50% of malnutrition is associated with diarrheal disease and intestinal worms. These diseases are caused by unsafe drinking water, lack of basic hygiene knowledge and practice, and inadequate sanitation.

Lifewater project countries’ WASH and Health Statistics (The World Bank, 20132 )

Country Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births) Diarrhea prevalence(% children under-5) Improved water source (% population with rural access) Improved sanitation facilities (% of rural population with access)
Ethiopia

77

18%

37%

18%

Cambodia

43

20%

59%

21%

Uganda

90

26%

70%

35%

USA

8

94%

99%

Lack of good nutrition can cause stunting, underdeveloped bone and muscle structure, and lack of cognitive function. Lifewater works in Cambodia where children struggle with a prevalence of malnutrition: 29% of children under five are below weight for their age, and 40.9% remain with reduced height for their age.3

More emphasis is being placed on the linkages between under-nutrition and WASH. In 2013, the US Agency for International Development launched its new Water and Development Strategy 2013-1018, containing the two-fold goal: 1) to save lives and advance development through improvements in water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programs, and 2) through sound management and use of water for food security.4

This direct link between under-nutrition and water, sanitation, and hygiene indicates that in order to improve health outcomes and increase nutritional outcomes for children, WASH must be part of the solution. The WASH interventions of clean water, hygiene training, and sanitation and latrine promotion, are linked to improved nutrition outcomes in children. Lifewater and its partners are part of the solution as we work to implement transformative WASH programs that help to reduce infectious and water-borne diseases and improve childhood health.

Give Safe Water

1World Health Organization (2008). Safer water, better health: Costs, benefits and sustainability on interventions to protect and promote health.
2The Little Green Data Book (2013). http://data.worldbank.org/products/data-books/little-data-book/
3http://datatopics.worldbank.org/hnp/HNPDash.aspx
4http://www.usaid.gov/documents/1865/usaid-water-and-development-strategy-2013-2018