A new study led by researchers at Stanford University finds that efforts to increase the use of sanitary facilities in rural African communities can have a significant impact on height, weight, and overall health of children living in these communities.
Researchers engaged in activities that sought to motivate villagers in rural Mali to build latrines. Villages that built latrines were given certificates from government agencies that instilled a sense of pride. Researchers also educated villagers by placing food near where people had defecated in open areas. Villagers could see flies landing on both the human waste and food.
In villages where interventions were conducted, the use of latrines doubled. And researchers found that children, who lived in villages where interventions were conducted, were 17 percent less likely to be stunted in height and 35 percent less likely to underweight.
Amy Pickering, a research associate in the department of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford and the lead author of the study, stated that “studying sanitation is not always the sexiest topic. But it certainly is rewarding when we were able to identify strategies to effectively improve quality of life and child health.”
The study, “Effect of a Community-Led Sanitation Intervention on Child Diarrhoea and Child Growth in Rural Mali: A Cluster-Randomised Controlled Trial” was published in the November 2015 issue of The Lancet Global Health. It may be accessed here.