New research on malnutrition, which leads to childhood stunting, suggests that a root cause may be an abundance of human waste polluting soil and water, rather than a scarcity of food. Excerpts from the article are mentioned below.
According to a fascinating article in the New York Times, research on malnutrition, which leads to childhood stunting, suggests that a root cause may be an abundance of human waste polluting soil and water, rather than a scarcity of food.According to a study done by the WHO, UNICEF and the World Bank in 2012, there are 162 million children under the age of 5 in the world who are malnourished are suffering less a lack of food than poor sanitation.
According to data that was released by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) from a survey conducted in 2012; only 32% of rural households in India have their own toilets and that less than half of Indian households have a toilet at home. In fact, the last Census data reveals that the percentage of households having access to television and telephones in rural India exceeds the percentage of households with access to toilet facilities. Of the estimated billion people in the world who defecate in the open, more than half reside in India.As a result, children are exposed to a bacterial infection and are unable to attain a healthy body weight no matter how much food they eat.
“These children’s bodies divert energy and nutrients away from growth and brain development to prioritize infection-fighting survival,” said Jean Humphrey, a professor of human nutrition at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “When this happens during the first two years of life, children become stunted. What’s particularly disturbing is that the lost height and intelligence are permanent.”
In 2012 Unicef, the World Health Organization and the World Bank released a major report on child malnutrition that focused entirely on a lack of food. Sanitation was not mentioned. Now, Unicef officials and those from other major charitable organizations said in interviews that they believe that poor sanitation may cause more than half of the world’s stunting problems.
“Our realization about the connection between stunting and sanitation is just emerging,” said Sue Coates, chief of water, sanitation and hygiene at Unicef India. “At this point, it is still just an hypothesis, but it is an incredibly exciting and important one because of its potential impact.”This research has crucial implications as it resolves a great mystery: Why are Indian children so much more malnourished than their poorer counterparts in sub-Saharan Africa?
A child raised in India is far more likely to be malnourished than one from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe or Somalia, the planet’s poorest countries. Stunting affects 65 million Indian children under the age of 5, including a third of children from the country’s richest families.
This disconnect between wealth and malnutrition is so striking that economists have concluded that economic growth does almost nothing to reduce malnutrition.
“The difference in average height between Indian and African children can be explained entirely by differing concentrations of open defecation,” said Dean Spears, an economist at the Delhi School of Economics. “There are far more people defecating outside in India more closely to one another’s children and homes than there are in Africa or anywhere else in the world.”
“India’s stunting problem represents the largest loss of human potential in any country in history, and it affects 20 times more people in India alone than H.I.V./AIDS does around the world,” said Ramanan Laxminarayan, vice president for research and policy at the Public Health Foundation of India.
Other developing countries have made huge strides in improving sanitation. Just 1 percent of Chinese and 3 percent of Bangladeshis relieve themselves outside compared with half of Indians. Attitudes may be just as important as access to toilets. Constructing and maintaining tens of millions of toilets in India would cost untold billions, a price many voters see no need to pay — a recent survey found that many people prefer going to the bathroom outside.
Studies are underway in Bangladesh, Kenya and Zimbabwe to assess the share of stunting attributable to poor sanitation. “Is it 50 percent? Ninety percent? That’s a question worth answering,” said Dr. Stephen Luby, a professor of medicine at Stanford University who is overseeing a trial in Bangladesh that is expected to report its results in 2016. “In the meantime, I think we can all agree that it’s not a good idea to raise children surrounded by poop.” To read this entire article, click here.