Vulnerable groups living in poverty often cannot access sufficient nutritious foods, education and health and hygiene services. Shocks that lead to severe food shortages and/or high food prices can quickly plunge already struggling families into destitution and cause high rates of malnutrition. In this context, access to and use of safe water, sanitation facilities, and good hygiene have the potential to positively impact and safeguard nutritional outcomes by addressing both the direct and underlying causes of malnutrition.
Essential WASH behaviors, including hand washing with soap, treatment and safe storage of drinking water, and sanitary disposal of human feces, have been shown to effectively reduce the prevalence of diarrhea, a major contributor to child malnutrition. Lack of sanitation in particular is strongly correlated with stunting, and even in the absence of diarrhea, a fecal-contaminated environment is linked to environmental enteropathy. Adequate sanitation and hygiene can reduce the severe impact of agricultural and climate-based shocks to health and nutrition to a significant degree.