Toilets, Water and Soap Vital For Tackling Child Malnutrition

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Water Supply and Sanitation and Collaborative Council (WSSCC)
End Water Poverty (EWP)
WASH Advocates
August 12, 2012

A group of concerned international development organizations has written to UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Vice President Michel Temer of Brazil, calling on them to acknowledge and address the crucial and devastating impact that a lack of clean water, safe sanitation and hygiene has on the battle to overcome child malnutrition.

The letter, co-signed by the Water Supply and Sanitation and Collaborative Council (WSSCC), End Water Poverty (EWP), and WASH Advocates, calls on the international leaders to: Please keep in mind the simple fact that children who suffer from diarrhoea or are infected with worms are not getting the goodness they need from the food they eat.

A pit latrine in Bushenyi district, Uganda

The World Health Organization estimates that repeated bouts of diarrhoea and nematode infections cause up to 50% of childhood under-nutrition. Making sure that children have access to a clean toilet, that they have clean water to drink, and that they wash their hands with soap can make a massive difference to the almost one in three of the world’s poorest children currently unable to reach their full potential due to malnutrition.

The letter also warmly welcomes the summit and the leadership shown by Cameron and Temer in using the global attention on the handover of the Olympics from London to Rio as an opportunity to tackle this crisis.

With thousands of children dying every day because of a lack of clean water, safe toilets and hygiene, and many more who are stunted permanently because of chronic malnutrition, providing these lifesaving services to the hundreds of millions of children who currently lack them could be the lasting international legacy of the London Olympics.

“It is really quite simple: we can’t afford to waste the food we’ve got,” said Amanda Marlin, Acting Executive Director at WSSCC. “In the USA and England, we’re now aware that 30% of the food bought in our supermarkets is thrown away. In the developing world, it is an even greater tragedy when much of the food that is eaten by children loses nutritional value through diarrhoea and other diseases that can be prevented.”

“Why put more calories into hungry young bodies if those calories are squandered by preventable waterborne diarrheal disease?” asked John Oldfield, CEO at WASH Advocates. “It is estimated that on any given day, patients with diseases related to water and sanitation fill half of the hospital beds in the developing world. This is solvable.”

Improvements to sanitation also offer great value for money,” said Sarah Blakemore, International Coordinator for End Water Poverty. “A pound invested in better toilets can yield a return of around £5.50 in terms of improved productivity and reduced health care costs.”

A water channel near a pit latrine. It is vital to locate latrines away from water channels and sources.

The letter also noted that there is already increased political attention being paid to environmental causes of poor health. At the Sanitation and Water for All High Level Meeting in Washington in April 2012, the UK’s Andrew Mitchell pledged a doubling to 60 million of the number of people the UK would reach with water, sanitation and hygiene by 2015.

The meeting, which was hosted by UNICEF and the World Bank, drew Ministerial delegations from almost 40 developing countries and major donors.

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