Why water, sanitation and hygiene are crucial for achieving effective nutrition
‘Ending extreme poverty in all its forms’ should be the primary focus of the post-2015 framework. To do this, it should encourage an integrated approach to tackling poverty, hunger and under-nutrition, ill-health and inequality, which recognises the interdependent nature of outcomes in each area.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 50% of malnutrition is associated with repeated diarrhoea or intestinal worm infections as a result of unsafe water, inadequate sanitation or insufficient hygiene . A lack of access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) has a huge impact on human health including:
• Diarrhoea (largely caused by poor WASH) is a leading cause of death in children under-five globally , and its constant presence in low-income settings may contribute significantly to under-nutrition.
• Parasitic infections, such as soil-transmitted helminths (worms), caused by a lack of sanitation and hygiene, infect around two billion people globally , while an estimated four and a half billion people are at risk of infection . Such infections can lead to anaemia, reduced physical development and inhibited cognitive development .
• Approximately a third of all child deaths are attributable to nutrition-related factors, such as low birth weight, stunting (low height for age) and severe wasting, all of which are closely linked to a lack of access to water and particularly sanitation and hygiene. Many children in developing regions suffer stunting, which reflects chronic nutritional deficiencies, and repeated ingestion of animal and human faeces due to poor waste management and a lack of sanitation. According to the World Bank, open defecation accounts for most or all excess child stunting in India .
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