A Foundation of Food Security and Nutrition: Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene

The goal of international development and global health is to ensure healthy children, healthy families, and healthy nations so that they may break the cycle of poverty and be productive members of the world. As a community, we have come up with an abundance of interventions, programs, behaviors, and projects to overcome poverty and disease – vaccines, microfinance, physician training programs, HIV/AIDS medications, treatment for severe acute malnutrition, and many others.

All of these programs can be effective and make a difference in the lives of those served. But there is one set of interventions that, unlike many others, can act as the foundation of and touch on global health, international development, gender equality, education, economic development, food security, and nutrition: water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH).

Imagine a world where every child, woman, and man had access to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation, and were able to perform hygiene behaviors effectively. What would that look like?

More children would attend school, and excel at their schoolwork. Children would spend less days being sick from diarrhea and other diseases caused by lack of WASH and could access the education they need and deserve. Less children would be stunted. More would lead healthier lives. Their cognitive development wouldn’t suffer due to a lack of calories or nutrients that they lose during diarrheal episodes.

Women and girls wouldn’t have to spend so much time collecting drinking water, clean or contaminated, for their families and could spend time on income-generating activities or getting an education, and less time being sick or caring for sick family members. Healthy women could spend more time farming, increasing the food security of both their families and their communities.

Households can afford to purchase more nutritious foods when family members aren’t sick from dirty water, when the women and men are healthy enough to work, and when the cycle of poverty is broken by children being able to go to school.

The relationship between WASH, food security and nutrition is clear. When families have WASH, they have better food security, better nutrition, and better quality of life.

For more information:

Jordan Teague is the WASH & Nutrition Fellow at WASH Advocates and a MPH Candidate at George Washington University.

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