Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

How Clean Toilets Can Help Improve the Health of Undernourished Children in India

August 26, 2013

Thirty-eight percent of India’s children are stunted, according to a recent report by The Lancet on malnutrition. That means that nearly 62 million children in India will not reach their full physical or mental potential.

Reducing that number – and we must if India is to reach its fullest potential – is a big effort, one that’s been under way for some time.

And we know one thing which is key to ensuring a healthy childhood for Indian children: access to safe and clean toilets that protect them from deadly diseases.

India’s malnutrition cases occur more consistently in homes without a toilet. Children who practice open defecation are at a much higher risk of infections, especially diarrhea that drains the body of its nutrients. One scientific commentary on stunting in India, published this June, suggests that, “in hygienic conditions, much of the under nutrition in India would disappear.”

Clean toilets won’t entirely wipe out malnutrition in India. We must continue expanding access to a number of important interventions and reinforce government programs for prenatal care, nutritional meals, and access  to vaccines that help prevent life-threatening infectious diseases like diarrhea and pneumonia that have ripple effects on malnutrition.

But clean toilets will prevent the spread of infections from human waste. And when they are coupled with innovative septage management and clean water, are fundamental to any long-term solution for India’s children.

Want to help? Spread the news about the important link between sanitation and healthy child development by sharing this blog post or the infographic above. You may also want to explore supporting the food and water projects on

  • Tags UNICEF
  • Share
blog comments powered by Disqus