Clean water plays a key role in overcoming malnutrition

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Clean water plays a key role in overcoming malnutrition

Clean water plays a key role in overcoming malnutrition

Interventions focusing solely on food are not sufficient to resolve the serious problem that is malnutrition: experts explain that we need to pay close attention to water too.

Globally there are over 155 million children under the age of 5 suffering from developmental problems as a direct result of malnutrition in the first 1,000 days of life, i.e. from conception to around the age of two and a half. According to the data available, insufficient water sanitation is the second most common cause of this issue worldwide. What follows is a snapshot of the information presented by World Water Week 2017 experts, who are working to achieve the sixth UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals: “Clean water and sanitation”.

2+6=17: the sums add up!

Maths is not a matter of opinion, though an exception can perhaps be made when it comes to the Sustainable Development Goals. Experts from the German WASH Network – a network of 20 German NGOs providing emergency assistance and international aid – have presented the results of research combining technical data and a survey conducted by various professionals in the sector, highlighting the close connection between malnutrition and a lack of clean water.

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The “2+6=17” report puts the spotlight on two further Sustainable Development Goals, in addition to the aforementioned relating to water, namely number 2 – “Zero hunger” – and number 17 – “Partnerships for the goals”. The key message emerging from the research is that it will be impossible to meet the environmental and social sustainability goals by 2030 if we work in isolation. “The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are interconnected and there is a particularly strong link between goals 2 and 6,” explain the experts as they recall the meaning of WASH: WAter, Sanitation and Hygiene. For instance, a lack of clean water can cause a number of intestinal problems spread by parasites, causing diarrhea or poor food consumption, and damaging people’s nutritional health. As a result, a series of recommendations for all have been put forward, based mainly on changing mentalities and urging collaboration between all parties to achieve the sustainability goals.

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The recipe for success

An article published by medical journal The Lancet a few years ago showed that traditional nutrition-focused methods, which advocate providing nutritional supplements, can reduce the rate of malnutrition by 20% at most, even if these measures are rolled out to 90% of the population. So what can we do to resolve the problem? The answers are detailed by experts from the international organisation Water Aid, who presented the report The recipe for success, a follow-up from the previous report, The missing ingredients. “At current rates of progress, we will not meet the sustainable development goals to end malnutrition and provide clean water for all by 2030”, the report reads, before going on to list a number of suggestions to be implemented immediately, including plans to integrate WASH and nutrition, increasing funding to the relationship between water and nutrition, and promoting healthy eating and hand hygiene.

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