‘Dirty water and poor hygiene stunts children’s growth’

9th of September 2013
‘Dirty water and poor hygiene stunts children’s growth’

Providing children with clean water and soap could help them to grow taller, according to a scientific review.

Research has found that improving hand hygiene in a community could add an average of half a centimetre to the height of children under five.

The study was carried out for the Cochrane Review by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the charity WaterAid. It concluded that dirty water and poor hygiene can increase the risk of infection in a child's gut, which is said to reduce the amount of nutrients that can be absorbed.

According to lead author of the study Dr Alan Dangour: "Providing clean water, sanitation and hygiene is an effective way to reduce the incidence and associated deaths from diseases such as diarrhoea - which remains the third biggest killer of under-fives worldwide.

"For the first time our analysis suggests that better access to these services may also have a small but important impact on the growth of young children."

The review examined 14 studies conducted in low and middle-income countries including Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Chile, South Africa and Nepal. Data on more than 9,000 children was incorporated in the study.

And according to the findings, simple measures such as disinfecting water using cheap solar energy; providing soap, and improving water quality could reduce the prevalence of stunted growth by up to 15 per cent.

Stunting irreversibly affects the physical and mental development of an estimated 165 million children worldwide. One of the authors Yael Velleman claims the link between water, sanitation and nutrition could help explain why children in some countries are shorter than others in equally developed nations.



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