Caught short: How a lack of toilets and clean water contributes to malnutrition

In the developing world, a lack of clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is a major contributor to malnutrition. One impact of this is stunting, where severe and prolonged undernutrition makes children shorter than normal for their age, and affects their emotional, social and cognitive development. Currently, more than 650 million people in the world do not have access to clean water and more than 2.3 billion do not have access to an adequate toilet.

Diarrhoeal diseases caused by dirty water and poor sanitation are the second biggest killer of children under five after pneumonia, taking 315,000 young lives every year. Even those children who survive severe bouts of
diarrhoea are at risk of having their lives, and life chances, forever changed. The World Health Organization estimates that 50% of undernutrition – a major form of malnutrition – is associated with infections caused by unsafe water, poor sanitation and unhygienic practices, including not washing hands with soap.