Lack of safe water, adequate sanitation and good hygiene practices is directly linked to fatal diseases and conditions such as cholera and diarrhoea. It is linked with many other health problems too, including malnutrition, pneumonia, parasites and blinding trachoma. Most of these diseases are caused by the contamination of drinking water, hands, soil and food with human faeces.
Water, sanitation and hygiene play a fundamental role in improving nutritional outcomes. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 50% of malnutrition is associated with repeated diarrhoea or intestinal worm infections as a result of unsafe water, inadequate sanitation or insufficient hygiene. Diarrhoea, largely caused by lack of water, sanitation and hygiene, is a leading cause of death in children under-five globally. Parasitic infections, such as soil-transmitted helminths (worms), caused by a lack of sanitation and hygiene, infect around two billion people globally, while an estimated 4.5 billion people are at risk of infection. Such infections can lead to anaemia and reduced physical and cognitive development. Access to WASH throughout a mother’s lifespan impacts newborn health too.
WaterAid India is increasingly engaging with health and nutrition sectors. We are talking about inclusion of WASH in policy, budgets and programming for prevention and control of diarrhoea, malnutrition, stunting and maternal health. We are currently expanding our focus on health and nutrition by:
- Focusing on enabling universal access and developing best practices and evidence to inform development and institutionalisation of pro-WASH interventions in the health and nutrition sectors through our district-wide programmatic approaches.
- Undertaking advocacy on the role of WASH in achieving key health priorities and targets, and the practical implications such as cost-effectiveness and complementarity of WASH interventions for the benefit of the healthcare system. Bring together key ministries and agencies (water, health, education, nutrition) to jointly ensure that WASH is prioritised as a cross-cutting agenda for achieving sustainable development outcomes.
- Emphasise behaviour change and hygiene promotion including consolidation and improvement of our current sanitation and hygiene promotion approaches, and expand to newer areas such as child care, safe child feeding, WASH in healthcare facilities and nutrition programmes.