Evidence Growing That Lack Of Sanitation Leads To Child Undernutrition

“Soap and clean water for effective handwashing can help boost a young child’s growth, according to the first large-scale scientific review to link hygiene to height — one measure of child nutrition,” IRIN reports. The study — a review of “14 studies conducted in low- and middle-income countries that provided data on the impact of WASH [water, sanitation and hygiene] programming on the physical growth of nearly 9,500 children” — “showed a ‘small but improved’ average growth of half a centimeter among children who received clean water and soap for handwashing as opposed to those who did not,” according to the news service, which notes, “Researchers found clean water and soap reduced stunting by up to 15 percent.” IRIN states, “There is growing scientific evidence that repeated bouts of diarrhea reduce a gut’s ability to absorb life-enhancing nutrients that allow children to develop mentally and physically” (8/1). “Stunting, or low height for age, affects 165 million children worldwide, has negative long-term impacts on physical and mental development, and reduces productivity in adulthood,” The Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog” notes, adding, “Undernutrition causes 3.1 million deaths annually — nearly half (45 percent) of deaths in children under five.” The blog discusses how open defecation and lack of access to toilets, which affects 2.5 billion people, also contributes to undernutrition (Tran, 8/1).

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