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Elbrich Spijksma

November 11-12 an international conference on the nexus between WASH and nutrition security took place in the city of Bonn. Our colleague Elbrich Spijksma, senior programmes officer WASH, together with Pamela Teddy of HEWASA (a Ugandan partner organisation of Simavi, participated. Elbrich shares her thoughts about WASH and Nutrition, the theme of this year’s World Toilet Day.


How are WASH and Nutrition related?

WASH and Nutrition are linked to each other in many ways: children who suffer from diarrhoeal diseases and inflammation of their intestins regularly – mostly as a consequence of drinking contaminated water and a lack of hygiene and sanitation – are prone to develop chronic infections. As a result of these infections, they have difficulties in taking up the nutrients from the food they consume. Instead of contributing to the growth of the child, the energy from the food is needed to fight the infections.

Children who grow up without clean water, adequate sanitation and positive hygiene behaviour, are therefore far more susceptible to become stunted. Stunting refers to a situation where children’s physical and mental development are hampered, preventing them to reach their full potential.

By ensuring that people use safe water, proper sanitation, and adapt positive hygiene behaviour, we can eliminate the cause of many diseases. It is vital not only to focus on water and sanitation, but also to stress positive hygiene behaviour, like treating water and hand washing before eating or after a toilet visit.


What is Simavi doing to bring WASH and Nutrition closer together?

Simavi is not working in the field of WASH for the sake of contributing to the WASH coverage statistics. We are working on WASH because of the preventative nature of these interventions. We’re in it for the health outcome that is associated with WASH. As such we do not only focus on the number of water- and sanitation facilities that are being constructed; we look beyond construction and focus on use, sustainability and hygiene behaviour.

In the recent discussions on the SDGs this is one of the points that Simavi brought to the table: we are very happy that Water and Sanitation has become a separate goal in the new development framework, but we strive for a separate monitoring indicator for hygiene as well.


What strategy can be followed to better integrate WASH and nutrition?

During the conference several strategies have been discussed, such as:

  1. Ensure geographical and programmatic integration of WASH and nutrition projects in high undernutrition prevalence areas;
  2. Prioritise the mother and child unit;
  3. Ensure a WASH minimum package (kit, messages & standards) both in health and nutrition centers and at the household level;
  4. Place emphasis on behaviour change;
  5. Ensure that both coordination bodies (WASH and Nutrition) include representation from the other sector.

Simavi will follow up on these discussions and take them into account in the further development of our WASH policy.

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