Access to improved sanitation can increase cognition in children, according to a new World Bank study. The study contributes to a growing body of research linking stunting and open defecation. Currently, more than 2.5 billion people worldwide lack access to toilets, and one billion people practice open defecation.
Poor sanitation is a better predictor of child stunting than calorie consumption, new data shows. The authors of the study say, however, that both sanitation and calorie consumption contribute in different ways to health and well-being.
I enjoyed World Water Week. There were some good sessions, old friends and new people to meet, and a lot to learn. This year the theme was Water Cooperation: Building Partnerships. The bias to water was understandable but if anything stronger than usual – my rough count is that about one session in ten was on sanitation or WASH, but that was enough to keep you busy as sessions ran in parallel and much of the time there was something relevant to go to.
There is statistical data to show that the height of Indian children is correlated to their and their neighbourhood’s access to toilets.
You can learn a lot from measuring children’s height. How tall a child has grown by the time she is a few years old is one of the most important indicators of her well-being. This is not because height is important in itself, but because height reflects a child’s early-life health, absorbed nutrition and experience of disease.
A child’s height is one of the most important indicators of her well-being. Height reflects the accumulated total of early-life health and diseases. Because problems that prevent children from growing tall also prevent them from growing into healthy, productive, smart adults, height predicts adult economic outcomes.
The effects of undernutrition
The undernutrition of babies, infants and children is horrible and a disgraceful blot on our human record. It is not just the immediate suffering, anguish and death. It is also the lasting impact: when stunted at age 2 the damage is largely irreversible. Stunted children are disadvantaged for life – their cognition and immune systems impaired, and their education and earning prospects reduced. Stunting leads to a 10 per cent decrease in lifetime earning. Stunted children start school 7 months later and attend 0.7 years less.