Despite ongoing efforts and recent progress, diarrhoeal diseases are the second leading infectious cause of child deaths among children under five. Diarrhoeal diseases kill 289,000 children under-five each year. That's 800 children a day, or one child dying every one - two minutes. Severe diarrhoea is one of the most common reasons children are admitted to hospital in low-income and middle-income countries.
Pneumonia, which is the leading infectious cause of under-five mortality, is spread in the developing world in large part due to poor hygiene. Nearly half of all deaths among children under five are attributable to under-nutrition, while half of all under-nutrition is attributable to lack of WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) . Taken together, is is clear that WASH is absolutely critical to global commitments to end preventable under-five deaths by the year 2030.
There are many global plans and partnerships aiming to end preventable child deaths. A Promise Renewed, launched in 2012 and of which WaterAid is a partner, aimed to set out a new paradigm under the leadership of UNICEF and USAID, to encourage countries to focus on high-impact interventions, integrated policies, and improved reporting.
In many of the countries where we work, A Promise Renewed Roadmaps are in place and are influencing national health plans; yet the challenge of political will remains and despite the importance given to WASH in the rhetoric of ending preventable child mortality, it remains low priority in many donor and national governments. In fact, something as simple as handwashing with soap can cut incidences of diarrhoea almost in half. It can cut pneumonia by 25%. Handwashing has even been shown to increase cognitive and social development in low-income children.
However, hygiene remains one of the least prioritised areas of development. While it is, in theory, an integrated part of the global water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector, in reality this is often not the case. Research shows that improving hygiene practices is often an afterthought, and standalone hygiene intervention programmes are rare, even where water and sanitation services have been provided. WaterAid is committed to building the profile of all elements of WASH, especially those that are being left behind to the detriment of children everywhere.