Improved water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is critical to child survival and development experts said recently, noting that it reduces neonatal and maternal disease and deaths.
The experts, who spoke at a two-day media dialogue on WASH in Awka, Anambra state, stressed that safe water, improved sanitation and hygiene contributes to “key outcomes for children.”
One of them, Mainga Moono Banda, UNICEF, WASH Specialist, lamented that about 45 million under-five global children die annually from diseases caused by poor access to water, sanitation and hygiene.
Speaking at the event which was organised by the Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB) of the Federal Ministry of Information in collaboration with UNICEF she said, “25 per cent of stunting in children under the age of two could be due to five or more diarrhea episodes.
Quoting statistics from a study titled, “Multi-country analysis of the effects of diarrhea on childhood stunting,’ Banda noted, “Diarrhea diseases can also affect a child’s nutritional status.
“Repeated bouts of diarrhea causes undernutrition which in turn reduces a child’s resistance to subsequent infections,” the WASH specialist added.
She further explained that diarrhea causes death by depleting body fluids resulting on childhood growth and cognitive development.
She added that sanitation in Nigeria is declining and called for concern even though the country is investing more on sanitation.
Banda also noted, WASH has a role to play in the prevention of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) which is silent killer of children as well as diarrhea.
Bemoaning the impact of poor WASH on children’s health and development, she stressed that the problem is a multi-sectoral one which requires multi-sectoral approach to tackle it.
Earlier, Mr. Olumide Osanyinpeju, Deputy Director, Child Right Information Bureau of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture commended UNICEF and EU for their continuous as well as huge support in ensuring that safe water, sanitation and hygiene are brought to the rural people of Nigeria through the WASH Programme is highly commendable.
According to him, the issue of safe water and sanitation has been in the front burner of development issues in Nigeria because it affects a major segment of our society, a lot of who are children.
Osanyinpeju said, “Water, Sanitation and Hygiene is very important in the life of a Child.
“The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) six clearly emphasises the importance of clean water and sanitation. Water and Sanitation are essential for the survival and development of all children, while simple hygiene such as hand washing can save lives.