While undernutrition cannot be considered a waterborne disease in the strict sense of the term, it is estimated that in 50% of cases it is associated with diarrhoea, which is itself caused by the ingestion of unsafe water and poor hygiene practices. Alassane Traore, water, hygiene and sanitation adviser of our Regional Office for West and Central Africa, explains.
WHAT IS THE LINK BETWEEN WASH (WATER, SANITATION AND HYGIENE), AND MALNUTRITION/UNDER-NUTRITION?
WASH (Water, Hygiene and Sanitation) helps to fight diarrhoeal diseases or repeated infections of intestinal nematodes (worms) which remain one of the causes of malnutrition. It is estimated that 50% of this malnutrition is associated with diarrhoea or repeated infections of intestinal nematodes due to unsafe water, inadequate sanitation or poor hygiene conditions.
WHY IS ACCESS TO WATER SO IMPORTANT IN THE FIGHT AGAINST MALNUTRITION?
Access to water, sanitation and hygiene also ensures a better impact of programmes designed to combat malnutrition. It also helps to prevent the vicious circle of “diarrhoea/ nematodes – malnutrition” that hinders child growth and development.
HOW can we have a stronger impact IN THE FIGHT AGAINST MALNUTRITION?
What would work is stronger coordination between organisations specialised in the different fields of access to water and in fighting malnutrition. It is essential to integrate water, sanitation and hygiene interventions within programmes designed to prevent, treat and manage malnutrition. This involvement can also include advocacy to ensure that Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) is better integrated and funded through nutrition strategy policies.
SAHEL: ”THE WASH IN NUT STRATEGY”
In Mali, in the Circles of Diré and Goundam, SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL implements WaSH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) programmes as part of the “Wash in Nut” strategy, which aims, since 2012, to systematically include WaSH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene – EHA) in the programmes to fight malnutrition.
Previously, this fight was often limited to the medical response alone, with the care of children suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) in Nutritional Rehabilitation Centres (NRCs).
The objectives of these programmes are to equip CRNs, hospitals and health posts with sanitary infrastructures – drinking water points, latrines, showers, waste incinerators, etc. – while training medical staff to maintain them. They also aim to provide the malnourished child and his family with a hygiene kit (cans for hygienic water storage, soap, chlorine tablets) in order to continue home treatment and limit the risk of relapse.
Finally, the Wash programs make it possible to intervene in regions with high SAM rates, by improving access to drinking water through community infrastructure (wells, boreholes, water networks, etc.), household sanitation (latrines) and hygiene promotion campaigns.