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WASH’Nutrition 2017 Guidebook

Feb 17 2017

Integrating water, sanitation, hygiene and nutrition to save lives

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Action Against Hunger WASH Nutrition Guidebook

The international humanitarian organisation Action Against Hunger has published a new guidebook for improving nutrition through the integration of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) and nutrition interventions. The “WASH’Nutrition Practical Guidebook”  was developed to offer practical guidance to help practitioners design and implement programs in both humanitarian and development contexts. Undernutrition in all its forms is the underlying cause of an estimated 45 percent of all child deaths each year. Evidence has shown that in many settings, there is a link between undernutrition and poor hygiene, poor sanitation and unsafe drinking water, emphasizing the need for integrated, multisectoral approaches to improving nutrition.

The “WASH’Nutrition Practical Guidebook,” funded by the European Commission via EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO), combines expertise from many individuals and organizations working in WASH, health, and nutrition, including the United Nations Children’s Investment Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), Action Against Hunger, Water Aid, Concern Worldwide and more.

“While the importance of water, sanitation and hygiene as a determinant of undernutrition is well understood, translating this into integrated approaches is a real challenge. By compiling concrete programmatic examples in a variety of contexts, this manual provides guidance on how WASH activities can contribute to the reduction of undernutrition incidence, and also to the optimization of its treatment,” said Marie-Sophie Whitney, global nutrition expert with the EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations.

Complementing the WHO/UNICEF/USAID guide published in 2015, “Improving Nutrition Outcomes with Better Water, Sanitation and Hygiene,” the new Action Against Hunger manual provides specific examples from over 30 countries of how better to achieve positive impact on nutrition through WASH programming. While it is targeted to WASH and nutrition field practitioners and program managers, the guidebook may also serve as a practical tool for those working in humanitarian and development contexts in general, as well as donors, institutions and governments seeking to prioritize strategic activities. 

The “WASH’Nutrition Practical Guidebook” comprises six chapters, delving into key concepts relevant to WASH and nutrition, as well as existing evidence on the links between nutrition and WASH, practical guidance on implementing integrated programs, setting up monitoring and evaluation systems to measure progress and impact, and tools for advocacy and capacity building for projects and project staff. 

Dr. Jean Lapegue, Senior WASH Advisor for Action Against Hunger, said, “In 2016, 78.3 percent of our country offices integrated WASH and nutrition projects, compared to 54.2 percent in 2013, which shows a strategic improvement. Our main challenge today is to increase this level of integration, and to ensure that Action Against Hunger and other partners (institutional and non-governmental) endorse and implement the ‘WASH’Nutrition’ strategy, based on the pillars extensively presented in this new manual.”

The guidebook places special emphasis on integrating WASH and nutrition programs in humanitarian emergencies: safe drinking water and sanitation, in addition to food and shelter, are vital to safeguarding the health of communities affected by crisis. The guide also provides a resources section, which offers tools and examples from the field on how integration efforts may be placed within each phase of a classical project cycle.

Francois Bellet, WASH specialist for UNICEF in West and Central Africa, said, “In the Sahel region of Africa, since the last nutrition and food security crisis of 2012, only 10 percent (roughly 100,000) of the children admitted for severe acute malnutrition treatment did indeed receive a WASH minimum package of activities to prevent the vicious circle of ‘diarrhea/nematode infections/enteropathy/undernutrition.’  The Action Against Hunger ‘WASH’Nutrition Practical Guidebook,’ aligned with our 2012 strategic pillars of the West and Central Africa Region, will support practitioners and institutions to improve their performance—and will hence contribute to eradicating undernutrition while maximizing its WASH prevention strategy.”