Poor sanitation puts millions of children at risk of disease: UNICEF

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UN File Photo/Patricia Esteve

Lack of access to proper sanitation is placing millions of the world's poorest children at risk of disease and malnutrition.

The finding comes in a report issued by the UN Children's Fund, UNICEF; the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the World Health Organization (WHO).

It was launched in connection with World Toilet Day, observed 19 November, to draw attention to the importance of toilets in supporting nutrition and health.

More than two billion worldwide do not have toilets, according to UNICEF.

The agency says lack of sanitation, particularly open defecation or using the outdoors as a toilet, contributes to diarrhoea and the spread of intestinal parasites that cause malnutrition.

Dianne Penn reports.

The report demonstrates the link between poor sanitation and malnutrition.

UNICEF says diarrhoeal diseases stemming from inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene kill over 800 children under five-years-old every day.

Poor children in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are particularly at risk.

Meanwhile, intestinal parasites such as roundworm, whipworm and hookworm, are transmitted through contaminated soil in areas where open defecation is practiced.

Hookworm is a leading cause of anaemia, or reduced red blood cell count, in pregnant women, resulting in malnourished, underweight babies.

On World Toilet Day, UNICEF, is calling for "concrete and innovative solutions" to resolve the sanitation issue and save children's lives.

The agency says there are "no excuses" not to act on access to toilets, even in the poorest communities.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 59″

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