As U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday announced an important
initiative to tackle malnutrition in mothers and children, WaterAid
warned that without action on sanitation, efforts to step up progress
could be derailed.
The sanitation Millennium Development Goal target is critical to improving nutrition in women and children but is currently so off-track that it will not be met until the 23rd century in Africa, some 200 years late.
The World Health Organisation estimates that diarrhoea and parasitic
infections – associated with poor sanitation and water – are responsible for up to 50% of childhood under-nutrition.
Reducing under-nutrition among mothers and children is high up the agenda as world leaders gather in New York this week to review progress on a decade of tackling global poverty. WaterAid welcomes the new initiative to address this critical issue but urges a comprehensive approach to the problem.
According to Mariame Dem, WaterAid’s Head of West Africa region, “Beating under-nutrition means beating the underlying causes as well as the symptoms and this includes poor sanitation. It rarely makes the headlines but poor sanitation and dirty water kills thousands of children each day and is crippling the health of billions in developing countries.”
Diseases related to poor sanitation, dirty water and hygiene place a
huge burden on under-resourced health systems. At any one time half
the hospital beds in developing countries are filled with people
suffering from diarrhoea.
In Africa, sanitation is the most off-track MDG target and globally there are currently 2.6 billion people living without a safe, clean toilet. At the same time, diarrhoea kills more children in Africa than any other disease.
“We need to put the needs and demands of mothers and children at the heart of the development agenda. It’s absolutely right that tackling under-nutrition and reducing maternal child mortality should be centre stage this week but if leaders are serious about mother and children, they need to get serious about sanitation” WaterAid’s Dem said.