Category Archives: Sanitation and Health

Topic of the Week – WASH and Nutrition

Each week, Sanitation Updates will post links to some of the most recent studies, events, etc. on a particular topic. Please leave a comment if you have suggestions for topics.

Topic of the Week – WASH and Nutrition 

Improving Nutrition Outcomes with Better Water, Sanitation and Hygiene: Practical Solutions for Policy and Programmes, 2016. WHO; UNICEF; USAID. This document, summarizes the current evidence of the benefits of WASH for improving nutrition outcomes.

Water, Sanitation, Hygiene, and Nutrition in Bangladesh: Can Building Toilets Affect Children’s Growth? 2016. World Bank. This report examines the potential impact of WASH on undernutrition and is the first report that undertakes a thorough review and discussion of WASH and nutrition in Bangladesh.

Sanitation and Nutrition: Should We Link Them Together in Our Development Actions? Ideas for Development, Jan 2016. In the field, few development actors include nutrition in their water and sanitation operations. Why do they fail to take it into account? What are the barriers?

Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth and Environmental Enteropathy in Bangladeshi Children. mBio, Jan. 2016. Recent studies suggest small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is common among developing world children. Findings suggest linear growth faltering and poor sanitation are associated with SIBO.

Why Are Indian Kids Smaller Than African Kids? Hint: It’s Not Race. Huffington Post, Jan. 14, 2016. There is a widespread lack of adequate and diverse food intake among young children, which needs to be addressed in both India and poor countries in sub-Saharan Africa. However, in India there is an additional and unexpected villain in the piece: a lack of toilets.

As diseases proliferate, mosquitoes becoming Public Enemy No. 1

As diseases proliferate, mosquitoes becoming Public Enemy No. 1. Source: USA Today, Jan 15 2016.

The Zika virus is causing concerns across Central and South America. There is no vaccine known at this time but it can be deadly for children.

As diseases go, Zika virus was always considered minor league.

It didn’t make people all that sick; most infected people had no symptoms at all. Zika was confined to a relatively narrow belt that ran from equatorial Africa to Asia.

Today, Zika has spread to Central and South America and is linked to an alarming increase in once-rare birth defects in Brazil. Although Zika was first diagnosed in Brazil in May, it’s been linked to more than 3,500 cases of microcephaly, in which infants are born with small heads and immature brain development.


An Aedes albopictus or Asian Tiger Mosquito, spreads dengue fever, the world’s fastest growing mosquito-borne disease. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

Yet Brazil isn’t just fighting Zika.

That country is also combating outbreaks caused by dengue and chikungunya viruses, which are known for causing fevers and debilitating joint pain. Dengue can be fatal.

The USA needs to prepare for a similar scenario, in which epidemics of multiple mosquito-borne diseases break out simultaneously, according to Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who co-wrote a new report in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Read the complete article.

Creating Music and Inspiration From What We Throw Away

Published on Feb 19, 2013

Music is a gift available to all — and especially treasured by those with the least — as the documentary Landfill Harmonic shares. It’s an inspiring story of a community of waste pickers in Paraguay who create instruments from these same garbage piles and work together to create The Recycled Orchestra which stirs the soul.

Accomplished violinist, Caleb Hans Polashek brings the sound of their music to life as he plays a violin constructed so beautifully (and resourcefully) by this community — one of only five of these instruments currently in the United States.

Despite Sanitation Tech, Parasites Spread During Roman Empire

Despite Sanitation Tech, Parasites Spread During Roman EmpireR&D Magazine, Jan 8 2016.

As the Roman Empire spread its tendrils across the surrounding geographic landscape, it disseminated ideas regarding literature, engineering, culture, cuisine, religion, and even hygiene. In fact, the Romans are credited with introducing sanitation technology to Europe roughly 2,000 years ago.


This is a photograph of Roman latrines from Lepcis Magna in Libya. Source: Craig Taylor

But Romanization can also be defined by its spread of parasites.

New research from Univ. of Cambridge’s Piers Mitchell, a member of the Archaeology and Anthropology Dept., has revealed that despite the Roman’s penchant for cleanliness, intestinal parasites and dysentery persisted and even increased following the Iron Age.

Read the complete article.

Cleaning up the E-Waste Recycling Industry

Cleaning up the E-Waste Recycling Industry. Source: Julie Ann Aelbrecht, Huffington Post, Jan 5 2016.

Upon opening a shipment of computers it had received through the International Children’s Fund (ICF), a Ghanaian school discovered the equipment sent was 15 years old. Most of the computers needed replacement parts, parts that weren’t available anymore. In the end, the school managed to get only a single computer working again.

While the ICF had good intentions, a fake charity had handed it a container of what was meant to be workable secondhand material that was actually closer to its end of life–that is, effectively waste. That unfortunate Ghanaian school is only one victim in a long chain of corruption, theft and organized crime that stretches from Brussels to Cape Town.

This is the global trade in electronic waste, or e-waste. It is estimated to be worth over $19 billion and leaves a trail of criminality behind it. The flow of discarded electronics follows a route where European countries turn a blind eye to theft and major companies bend and break recycling rules to get electronics to developing markets, where the waste disappears into dangerous ad hoc dumps. There, the waste is often dealt with by illegal recyclers in ways that are catastrophic to the environment and human health.

But while e-waste is a dirty business, some are trying to clean it up, mostly by bringing these informal recyclers slowly into the regulated recycling industry.

Read the complete article.


A Disease That Could Render the Oral Polio Vaccine Ineffective

A Disease That Could Render the Oral Polio Vaccine Ineffective. Source: The Wire, India, Jan 6 2016.

A tough-to detect and alarmingly common intestinal disease may have a lot to do with India’s stunted children and their susceptibility to polio and rotavirus infections.

In 2011, a team of scientists from the USA, the Netherlands and Bangladesh began a study to answer one mystery: More than 95% of children who contract paralytic polio in India have received more than 3 doses of the Oral Polio Vaccine. In Bangladesh, the oral rotavirus vaccine has shown to be effective only 43% of the time compared to 95% in Europe. What could be causing this vaccine inefficacy?


Credit: cdcglobal/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

An infant receiving an oral polio vaccine.

One hypothesis claims that oral polio vaccines and rotavirus vaccines are less likely to work in children suffering from a type of intestinal damage called environmental enteropathy (EE), thought to be common in developing nations. The group built a strategy to test this.

Characterised by inflamed small intestines, resulting in faulty nutrient absorption, EE is believed to result out of repeated exposure to harmful pathogens. In low-income countries, where sanitation is often inadequate, EE is thought to be pretty common, but being a subclinical disease, it does not always show symptoms and hence has proved difficult to study.

The only foolproof way to identify EE patients would be via a biopsy, but since invasive techniques are not an option for large-scale studies on young subjects, the investigators made do with what they felt was the next best thing. The scientists of the Performance of Rotavirus and Oral Polio Vaccines in Developing Countries (PROVIDE) study diagnosed EE based on whether certain compounds were present in the subjects’ stool samples. These compounds, or biomarkers, have shown to be indicative of intestinal inflammation.

Read the complete article.

Q&A: Toilets confront climate change

Q&A: Toilets confront climate change. Source: SciDev, Jan 5, 2015.

  • Urban water shortages mean flushing toilets are poor option
  • Off-grid toilets are resilient after disasters like flooding
  • Households could hire rather than buy toilets

Two-and-a-half billion people worldwide have no access to safe, durable sanitation systems. Brian Arbogast, director of the water, sanitation and hygiene programme at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, tells SciDev.Net how innovative toilet technologies and business models could help fix this — and help communities cope with the devastation of climate change.

How does climate change impact sanitation?

With sea levels rising, you have flooding that causes huge health problems. As latrines and septic tanks get flooded and waste goes into the streets and streams, it can carry a lot of disease, including cholera, dysentery and typhoid.

The problem is that the world has only one gold standard for sanitation, which is having flush toilets connected to sewer lines, that are further connected to big and expensive wastewater treatment plants. Growing cities that already have water shortages may not have enough water for everybody to bathe and cook, let alone to flush toilets. So, are these cities going to follow the same path we have taken for the last century in developed cities?

Spending on sewer systems and treatment plants would be as bad an idea as building a new coal power plant. You are committing to the next 50 years and if you are going to have an infrastructure that requires a lot of water and electricity, you are only making your city less resilient in the face of climate change.

Read the complete article.