Nutrition and WASH

MSH implements evidence-based programs to improve nutrition and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) practices in developing countries. These interventions facilitate the adoption of healthy behaviors, such as early, exclusive breastfeeding and complementary feeding at home, and create community demand for key preventive interventions, such as vitamin A supplementation and improvement of sanitation facilities.

Clean water, nutritious food, and a hygienic environment are the building blocks of health for any community. Yet, these necessities are out of reach for many families in low-resource environments. As a result, malnutrition contributes to 45 percent of childhood deaths worldwide. Combined with micronutrient deficiencies, malnourishment stunts children's physical and cognitive development, the consequences of which are life-long. Diarrhea, often caused by contaminated water and inadequate sanitation and hygiene, is a leading cause of childhood malnutrition and death.

At the facility level, we train public and private providers to offer better curative nutrition services and improve the policies, technical guidelines, and management practices for nutrition and WASH services.

MSH has helped ministries of health develop key materials and tools used to train health care providers in integrated management of acute malnutrition and essential nutrition actions. In Uganda alone, MSH has trained nearly 1,800 facility-based health providers in 20 government facilities using these materials.

  • Through child immunization and community outreach activities, MSH has helped provide vitamin A supplements to more than 3 million children in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and 1 million children in Uganda. Since 2012, MSH has saved the lives of an estimated 900 children in DRC every year through vitamin A supplementation.

  • Also in DRC, from July 2013 through June 2014, MSH provided nearly 400,000 pregnant and postpartum women in the country with community-based counseling about early, exclusive, and continued breastfeeding and infant and young child feeding. As a result, 92 percent of mothers who gave birth with the assistance of MSH-supported health providers began breastfeeding within an hour of birth.

  • In Uganda, MSH trained more than 1,600 facility-based health providers on the World Health Organization (WHO)'s recommended best practices for infant and child nutrition. The proportion of children under the age of two underweight at the time of their measles vaccination in project-supported districts dropped from 9 percent in 2009 to 2.4 percent in 2014.

  • In addition, MSH also trained 3,200 community providers in Uganda on the positive deviance/hearth method, which empowers women to rehabilitate malnourished children at home, using locally available foods. The project was successful in nutritionally rehabilitating 73 percent of enrolled children.

  • Implementing community-led total sanitation (CLTS), training families to build or upgrade latrines, and promoting hand washing with soap helped people in Afghanistan improve their hygiene. CLTS is a globally recognized approach to teaching families and communities about the negative health and social consequences of open defecation. MSH trained facilitators to help communities develop plans to eradicate open defecation, which included peer enforcement. In collaboration with the Ministry of Rural Development and Reconstruction, MSH and its local partners were the first to implement CLTS in Afghanistan on a large scale. In just two years, 611 rural communities were certified to be free of open defecation.

  • In Madagascar, through the USAID Mikolo project, nearly 9,000 people gained access to an improved sanitation facility and over 800 villages became free of open defecation.
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