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This document is a compilation of main facts, existing evidence and remaining research gaps regarding the link between inadequate sanitary conditions and its underestimated impact on undernutrition and stunting, particularly for children under five years of age. It is a clear plea for more rigorous research, policy coherence and cooperation between Health and Nutrition, WASH, Mental Health, Care Practices and Food Security sectors, and the need to adequately address and consider WASH1 as an integral part of nutrition interventions. It particularly highlights the impact of WASH interventions on mothers and children’s (under five years of age) nutritional and health status. An estimated 30% of all children in low-income countries suffer from undernourishment2 and WASH services can help to alleviate this:

“More than 3.5 million mothers and children under five die unnecessarily each year due to the underlying causes of undernutrition, and millions more children are permanently disabled by the physical and mental effects of a poor dietary intake in the earliest months of life.”

“Child health, nutrition, growth, and development are interlinked, and are influenced by the hygiene of the immediate environment in which the baby begins to explore the world. In addition to expanding the scope of interventions, it is also important to broaden the conceptual structure of WASH as an aspect of child nutrition and development interventions, and not simply as the sum of toilets, caregiver hand washing, and water purification. WASH should be defined holistically as broadly encompassing the hygiene-related aspects of the physical and behavioral environment in which children are being raised.”

The aim of this fact sheet is to offer a compilation of relevant studies showing evidence on the link between sectors and to lobby for more cooperation between them.

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