World Water Day: How Expanding Access to Safe Water Can Help Us Improve Nutrition

The links between safe drinking water and good sanitation and hygiene practices (WASH) are numerous, but often overlooked. Poor sanitation and unsafe water increase the risk of severe infectious diseases that can significantly contribute to undernutrition, especially among children. According to the World Health Organization, diarrheal diseases, linked to unclean water and lack of sanitation, cause the death of over 1.8 million children under the age of five and are associated with 50 percent of malnutrition cases worldwide.

In Indonesia, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) is working in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Nazava Water Filters to improve nutrition in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life in East Java under the Baduta Program.

“People often do not realize the negative effects unsafe water has on their health, until they or their children get diseases such as diarrhea. The issue of people’s inability to have access to safe drinking water should be tackled properly because otherwise it may affect the government’s efforts to reduce stunting and improve the health of the next generation” says Ravi Menon, GAIN’s Country Director for Indonesia.

This is why GAIN decided to integrate access to safe drinking water into the ongoing Baduta program, which aims to improve the nutrition status of pregnant women and children aged 6 to 24 months. An estimated 40,000 pregnant women and 60,000 mothers and caregivers of children under two years of age are involved in intensive program activities at the community level.

The Baduta program encourages the establishment of a sustainable supply chain of household drinking water filters, community water assessment and education on appropriate household water treatment and safe storage. Nazava Water Filters (part of the PT Holland for Water group) provides, safe, simple and affordable household water filters, that enable households to filter their tap, well or rain water without the need to boil or use electricity.

Filtering water is three times cheaper than boiling it and nine times cheaper than buying water. During monitoring by Nazava, it was found that consumers save on average IDR 500K or US$38 per year using a water filter. This means that the 5,451 household with filters are together saving US$207,138 per year.

As part of this project, partners are piloting a micro-entrepreneurship model for the distribution of community water filters. These entrepreneurs, the majority of whom are women with no previous business background, learn about the importance of safe drinking water, the cost savings of filtering versus boiling, and how to assemble and maintain water filters. They then receive a small stock of filters that can be sold in instalments that are affordable in their community.

Reports from community health centers indicate that areas where filters have been sold did not have diarrhea outbreaks in the past year. The project trained over 175 potential entrepreneurs and helped provide additional income to 137 entrepreneurs (98% female). About 90 % of the 137 safe water entrepreneurs want to continue selling water filters in their communities once the project ends.

“We are happy to see that our investment in Nazava enabled these entrepreneurs to start sales of water filters into East Java thereby helping increase access to safe drinking water and reduce illness rates. The fact that they have decided to maintain their operations even after the project concludes represents a big achievement for us”, says Menon.

The other three components of the Baduta program include behavior change in eating habits, capacity building of nutrition knowledge and breastfeeding counselling and providing technical support to review packaging of complementary foods to make them internationally compliant.

According to Menon: “We can try to make families change their eating behaviors, the government can ensure that foods are correctly fortified and formulated, while the private sector can make sure that they are affordable, but everything comes to nought if the child is affected by diarrhea caused by drinking unsafe water or because of food prepared using boiled water that is re-contaminated due to improper storage.”

Children drinking filtered water. Malang, East Java


Read more about the Baduta program here

Watch the video documentary of Project Baduta

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Published 22 March 2017