Clean Drinking Water and Hygiene as a Way to Reduce the Risk of Stunting in Small Children

Clean Drinking Water and Hygiene as a Way to Reduce the Risk of Stunting in Small Children

An Indonesian study shows that clean drinking water and hygiene strategies contribute to reduce the risk of stunting in children under the age of three. Together with UNICEF, Indonesian scientists have surveyed the living conditions of 1,366 under three-year-olds as well as their mothers through questionnaires. In addition to the age, body size and weight of the children, the study also includes information on health care, e.g. vaccinations and nutritional counseling for mothers, hand wash practices, water supply and household waste management as well as the level of education.

About one out of four infants was stunted and nearly every fifteenth infant was affected by severe stunting. Growth delay occurred particularly among boys and older children from poorer, uneducated households. The quality of the water supply proved to be particularly important. In children who drank untreated water the risk for stunting increased by threefold. Children who lived in households with insufficient latrines were 27 % more often affected by stunting than others from better hygienic conditions.

The scientists pointed out that the lack of hygiene and clean drinking water has a negative impact on children’s nutritional status, as it promotes diarrhea, intestinal worm infections and other environmental infections. Loss of appetite, a lack of intake of (micro)nutrients as well as overreactions of the immune system are the consequences, which lead to lasting growth delay of infants.

Read more:

H Torlesse et al. Determinants of stunting in Indonesian children: evidence from a cross-sectional survey indicate a prominent role for the water, sanitation and hygiene sector in stunting reduction. BMC Public HealthBMC. DOI: 10.1186/s12889-016-3339-8 available via:

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