Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), nutrition and infection
WASH and nutrition
It has recently been reported that the MDG 7 target for access to safe drinking water has been met, with over two billion people gaining access to improved drinking water sources between 1990 and 2010. By 2015, an estimated 92% of the global population will have access to improved drinking water. Despite this, the world is off track for meeting the MDG 7 sanitation target; currently only 63% of the world has access to improved sanitation facilities, a figure projected to increase only to 67% by 201531. Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) practices are significantly linked to overall health and nutritional status. The conceptual framework below illustrates some of these many links.
Figure: Conceptual framework showing how poor water, sanitation and hygiene might impact child nutritional status, directly and indirectly
Source: Image produced as part of work funded by the SHARE Consortium
A lack of access to adequately clean water and improved sanitation facilities leaves communities and individuals vulnerable to infections and disease which are closely linked to increased levels of undernutrition. Disease also reduces the capacity of adults to work and increases the amount of time they spend caring for sick members of the family. Inadequate sanitation and hygiene also increase the risk of intestinal worm infestation such as hookworm infestation, an infection which causes significant blood loss and is therefore a direct cause of anaemia. Time spent walking to a household's main water source may also impact the health of children <5 years: a 15 minute decrease in one-way walk time to a water source was associated with an average 41% reduction in diarrhoea prevalence, improved anthropometric indicators of child nutritional status, and a 11% reduction in <5 mortality32.