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TitleWater and sanitation : health and nutrition benefits to children
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication1995
AuthorsBurger, SE, Esrey, SA
PaginationP. 153-175
Date Published1995-01-01
Keywordschild health, health education, health impact, income, literacy, literature reviews, nutrition, safe water supply, sanitation, water quality, water quantity

Improvements in domestic water supplies, sanitation facilities, and hygiene education have the potential to benefit the health and nutrition of children. Part of this article highlights the benefits of improved domestic water supplies which reduce water collection time, allowing the allocation of that time to child health and nutrition-enhancing activities. Accessible domestic water supplies have the potential to augment women's limited resources of time, energy, and income. Time saved by access to water that is closer to the home may be translated into more time spent on food production, income generation, self-improvement, and leisure, all of which may have an indirect impact on child health and nutrition. Time spent on child care activities such as feeding may have a direct impact on child health through greater energy intake by children, leading to better growth.
The easing of the energy-expenditure burden by more accessible water supplies might improve the nutritional status of the mother, the foetus, and the nursling. The increased available water could be used for water-requiring activities that increase food consumption or purchasing ability.
The total time spent collecting water varies widely throughout the world from no time, where taps are in the home, to an estimated twelve hours per day. Time spent depends on means of transportation, the terrain, the distance, the waiting time, the consumption rate, the number of consumers in the household, and the number of people available to collect water. Seasonal and climatic changes, such as the wet or dry season,
substantially influence the time required for water collection. Examples of time saved by improved sources include: 30 minutes per day in Malawi from gravity-piped water systems and
1 hour and 45 minutes per day in Mozambique from a village standpipe. Sometimes traditional water supplies are preferred even when improved sources are available if the improved water supply is unreliable, does not meet all the household needs, or is the same distance away. Often bringing the improved water source closer results in more frequent trips and does not reduce time spent collecting water, but this increased water use has its own benefits.
Time saved by bringing water supplies closer to people's homes reportedly results in more time spent on food processing, for example in Ghana, Mozambique, the Philippines, and Sudan. In Ghana and Mozambique more time was spent on cooking, which could increase the frequency of feeding or the amount eaten at each meal. Additional food production can either be used for home consumption or sale. Because water use may increase from improvements in water supplies, it is often difficult to identify whether more time or more water or both is responsible for increases in these activities. In Thailand, Peru and Malawi, water and time gains were used for livestock watering and tending; in Thailand, Peru, Panama, Malawi and the Philippines for home gardening; in Ghana for agricultural work. An increase in income-generating activities is noted such as beer brewing in Sudan, adobe making in Peru, brick making in Malawi, and the selling of prepared and unprepared foods in the Philippines. However, there are constraints to food-producing and income-generating activities which include legislative restrictions against water usage for nondomestic purposes, lack of sufficient resources to exploit the time and income gains, and seasonal droughts. Evidence from several countries indicates that time spent on activities related to food production, processing, and preparation is increased after water is brought closer to the home. Further indirect evidence suggests that the nutritional status of children can be improved following water supply interventions. In addition, time saved may be spent on learning and income-producing activities which may benefit the family as a whole.

NotesBibliography not included Chapter in: Child growth and nutrition in developing countries : priorities for action
Custom 1203.1


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