Nutrition and WASH (Water,Sanitation,Hygiene)

Malnutrition, and more especially under-nutrition is a challenge and serious public health concern. Two in five children under five in Zambia are stunted, which indicates chronic malnutrition. Severely malnourished children are more likely to die in comparison to their well-nourished peers. Stunted physique is attributed to under-nutrition, micro-nutrient deficiencies, mono-diets and poor WASH practices (Water,Sanitation,Hygiene). Cognitive development is delayed or disrupted in stunted individuals who often have difficulty with school work and the vicious cycle of disease and poverty across generations is ongoing.

With the recent outbreak of cholera it is important to take a look at the impact of poor WASH practices on nutrition. Diarrhoea is an exacerbating factor in malnutrition, as it decreases the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Malnutrition is associated with diarrhoea or with repeated intestinal worm infections caused by unsafe drinking water and/or poor sanitation and hygiene. . Furthermore, malnourished children are more likely to contract diarrhoea as their body’s are already weak, and the effect is cumulative. Provision of safe water and sanitation is critical to control the transmission of cholera and other waterborne diseases.

Long term control of water borne diseases such as cholera requires the development of piped water systems, safe sewage disposal and safe drinking water. At household level, sensitization on hand-washing practices before handling food, after urinating or defecating and boiling or chlorination of drinking water. Malnutrition is a multifaceted problem and requires attention in various sectors. Nutrition and WASH collaborations need to be strengthened.

Nakalembo Simwaka

Nutrition Professional

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