Stunted growth… HIV-associated?

Improving the quality of water and hand-washing could add half a centimetre on average to the height of children under five – as it is thought that dirty water and poor hygiene can increase the risk of infection in the child’s gut, reducing the amount of nutrients that can be absorbed.

…Undernutrition is a cause of 3.1 million deaths annually – accounting for nearly half of all deaths of children under five years old. Dr Dangour, who is also a senior research fellow at the Department for International Development (DfID), added: “Providing clean water, sanitation and hygiene is an effective way to reduce the incidence and associated deaths from diseases such as diarrhoea – which remains the third biggest killer of under-fives worldwide. For the first time our analysis suggests that better access to these services may also have a small but important impact on the growth of young children.”

…Five years ago, the World Health Organisation estimated that 50 per cent of childhood malnutrition is associated with repeated diarrhoea or intestinal worm infections. The authors hope that this report – the first to quantify how water and sanitation measures can aid growth – can inform new policy.

In 2005 the WHO released a report entitled Growth Failure in HIV-infected children. So… What’s the problem here again? The combined effects of poverty or a microbe? If you’re going to donate to a charity to help with African AIDS, the most rational choice would be WaterAid.

[Source: The Independent]

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