I have been puzzling to understand why I found this conference so energising and such a good experience. In part it was the choreography and facilitation by Barbara Evans and others – what a difference it makes to have inventive ways of involving everyone and keeping us awake with bits of serious fun, and what a difference when facilitators and presenters are on top of their topics, have new things to share, are driven by controlled passion, and really enjoy themselves. And maybe there is something Ozzie about this – welcome, openness, informality, climate.
Despite large government and NGO programs, despite substantially increased public spending on sanitation, and despite sustained economic growth, open defecation is declining very, very slowly in rural “Hindi heartland” north India. Widespread resistance to using simple latrines in the rural north Indian plains states is a human development crisis and a serious puzzle: this is exactly the place on earth where open defecation is most common and where high population density most raises the human and economic costs of open defecation.
Children in West Bengal and Bangladesh are presumed to share the same distribution of genetic height potential. In West Bengal they are richer, on average, and are therefore slightly taller. However, when wealth is held constant, children in Bangladesh are taller. This gap can be fully accounted for by differences in open defecation, and especially by open defecation in combination with differences in women’s status and maternal nutrition.
A new research brief from the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP), Investing in the Next Generation: Growing Tall and Smart with Toilets, examines how the level of open defecation in a community is associated with shorter children in Cambodia. Key findings highlighted in the research brief are that open defecation is associated with greater stunting at every age, and that it is associated with greater stunting even when the household itself does not openly defecate.
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.