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How WASH program could improve the nutritional status of children?

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According to UNICEF and WHO, undernutrition is “the outcome of inadequate dietary intake and repeated infectious diseases”. The 3 main underlying causes are:

  • Poor access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food;

  • Inadequate maternal and child care and feeding practices;

  • Poor access to quality health services and Unhealthy sanitary environment.

You need to keep in mind that undernutrition could be tackled through nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions; and WASH programming is one of these nutrition-sensitive interventions. WASH programming would contribute to the creation of a safe and hygienic environment, and consequently shall reduce the incidence of faecal-oral diseases (such as diarrhoea, intestinal worms end environmental enteric dysfunction) on mothers and children. Moreover, other WASH-related diseases are also associated with decreased immunity and undernutrition: malaria, acute respiratory infections and neglected tropical diseases (i.e. trachoma, dengue).

As WASH practitioner, you already know that you need to consider the whole aspects of WASH together (water, sanitation and hygiene) and not individually, in order to prevent and reduce the incidence of these diseases:

  • Water quantity (water trucking, rehabilitation/improvement of existing water sources, construction of new water sources);

  • Water quality (water treatment and water sources protection);

  • Sanitation (management of faeces, and especially baby feces, with adapted and accessible facilities);

  • Hygiene promotion (personal and food hygiene, baby WASH);

  • Environmental sanitation (hygienic management of animals, solid wastes management and vectors control);

  • Water and sanitation governance.

You need to participate actively to the integration of WASH and nutrition sectors, through a close collaboration, the development of integrated objectives and activities, the sharing and exchange of resources and the targeting of populations affected by undernutrition and poor WASH conditions. This integration could be done through for example:

  • Joint assessments

  • Integrated mapping of nutrition and WASH indicators for a focused geographical integration of the interventions

  • Target populations: the ones the most affected and vulnerable to undernutrition and inadequate WASH conditions, and more specifically on pregnant women, mother-child, caretaker-child

  • Emphasis on behaviour change, on hygiene and health practices and especially on the couple ‘mother/caretaker – malnourished child’ (such as baby WASH and management of domesticated animals at home, to block the faecal-oral transmission routes)

  • WASH minimum package for households, for health and nutrition centres and for mobile clinics to support the management of moderate and severe acute malnutrition

I hope it was useful.

You can find much more information and ideas of integration in the ACF guideline:

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