A new report by global charity WaterAid has revealed that unresolved stunted growth in children is a major factor in poverty in Sub-Sahara Africa and South Asia.
It said some of these countries faced ‘punishing economic losses’ of up to between nine percent and 10 percent per person due to the unresolved childhood stunting.
To tackle this and other related human development and economic issues, the report urged countries to take bold decisive actions in order to achieve holistic targets under the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs).
According to the Healthy Start Report investing in integrated actions in the early years of a child’s life creates a positive cycle that builds human capital, strengthens economies, reduces future healthcare cost and contributes to national development.
Reversing the trend of stunting and other childhood health challenges the report said would be able to create a more productive work force and economic growth and lift countries out of poverty.
“For each one US Dollar invested in WASH globally, the report said there is a 44.3 dollars return in the form of reduced health care cost,” it indicated.
The research was conducted by WaterAid and PATH (formerly Program for Appropriate Technology in Health) and revealed that, nearly half a million children died each year across the world from diarrhea illness with more than half of them directly related to dirty water, poor sanitation and hygiene.
It added that “those who survive multiple bouts of diarrhea are left weakened and sometimes stunted, hence their long-term development and education is compromised.”
The authors therefore challenged stakeholders to adopt the approach which ensures that availability of Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) infrastructure and services accompanied health services for both mothers and children for a holistic SDG result.
“Scaling up an integrated package of WASH, rotavirus vaccination and nutritional intervention including breastfeeding promotion and zinc supplementation to 100 percent coverage could potentially reduce morbidities by two-thirds (63 percent) and almost halve mortalities (49 percent) from diarrhea and pneumonia,” the report maintained.
It added that integrated health and WASH interventions could have benefits far greater than each sector could achieve working on its own.
To do this end the authors said the world needed to put in place both domestic and international financing which supports and gives incentives for this integrated approach.
In an interview, Dr. Hilda Boye of the Pediatrics Society of Ghana noted that water-borne diseases such as typhoid Rota Viruses and Hepartites A persisted among children in Ghana in spite of the health interventions.
“These continue to infect and kill children, but prevention is better than cure, so safe water is key,” Dr. Boye stressed.
George Cobbinah Yorke Head of Policy, Campaigns and Advocacy at WaterAid Ghana averred that if WASH was not addressed alongside child health then child health was being addressed in isolation, and it won’t bring the right results.
“You may visit the health facility with headache and return home with an infection, if there are no proper WASH facilities in our health care institutions,” he intimated.
He therefore prescribed that the sector ministries involved in health and WASH in developing countries coordinate their activities such that a holistic result would be achieved. Enditem