Why WASH and Nutrition

Despite global gains, malnutrition in the developing world remains high and has even increased in southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa (35% and 27% of the population, respectively). Malnutrition affects every stage of the lifecycle and has severe generational consequences. Malnourished mothers are more likely to die in childbirth and have low birth weight babies who, in turn, face higher mortality rates and increased risk of disease. Stunted children face lifelong consequences in reduced mental capacity, lower retention in school and reduced lifetime earnings[1] . Improved WASH services have been proven to decrease the incidence of diarrheal disease and waterborne illnesses that can affect intestinal function and caloric intake. In addition, improved WASH services can substantially reduce environmental enteropathy (a chronic, subclinical disorder of the small intense caused by exposure to feces) that also contributes to malnutrition in children.

A recently published article in The New York Times further highlights a major shift in the discourse of malnutrition:
two years ago, Unicef, the World Health Organization and the World Bank released a major report on child malnutrition that focused entirely on a lack of food as the primary cause of stunting in children. Sanitation was not mentioned. There is now a growing body of evidence that identifies that sanitation-related factors may cause more than half of the world's stunting problems.

Nutrition at the Center

The CARE Water Team is working in collaboration with CARE's Nutrition Plus Team at the County Office level in Bangladesh, Benin, Ethiopia and Zambia. These COs will serve as hubs of nutrition integration expertise, and will help build the capacity of other COs, partners, and stakeholders on integrated nutrition programming. Nutrition at the Center is an integrated, multi-sectoral project approach that will substantially improve nutrition outcomes for mothers and children and includes an emphasis on: infant and young child feeding (IYCF) and maternal nutrition practices; food security; water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); women's empowerment; and maternal health.

Building on existing food security and WASH interventions, Nutrition at the Center offers a more comprehensive integrated nutrition program aimed at: reducing stunting among children under two years; and reducing childhood and maternal anemia. Focusing on cross-cutting issues and strategies including gender and empowerment, governance, advocacy, social behavior change, community mobilization, capacity building, and data for decision-making will help increase programming effectiveness. For more information on our WASH and nutrition related work, check out the one page brief.

Other Resources

  • WASHPlus WASH and Nutrition page that highlights major trends in the WASH and nutrition sectors
  • WASHPlus WASH and Nutrition Library provides academic publications and studies on the value of integrating WASH in nutrition programming
  • New York Times article on the relationship between poor sanitation and malnutrition

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    Nutrition at the Center. CARE. <http://nutritionatthecenter.com/>