The 6th project research and learning meeting took place on Friday, the 27th of September 2019, at the Sapphire Hotel, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The meeting brought together around 20 participants from nutrition and WASH projects to discuss the findings from the recent SCI WASH research conducted on behalf of USAID. The findings are expected to inform the revision of USAID’s WASH and Nutrition guidelines anticipated to be finalized in Spring 2020. The presentations were followed by a question and answer session and discussion.
The workshop started with opening remarks from Lioul Berhanu, Acting Deputy Chief of Party for Growth through Nutrition Activity. Lioul emphasized the importance of continuously reviewing improvement in evidence for program and policy use, reflecting the theme from the 4th project research and learning platform panel discussion on "Bridging the gap between Research and Policy.” He also emphasized the important role the R & L platform could play in complementing other existing national learning platforms in informing nutrition programs and policies in the country. Finally, he called for greater and more active participation of the nutrition community in utilizing the platform and resources that are available on the Growth through Nutrition Knowledge Management website. Following these opening remarks, Jason Lopez, SCI Sr. WASH Technical Advisor, delivered a presentation on key findings and recommendations from WASH and Nutrition Study.
In his first presentation on the topic of “WASH in relation to Nutrition”, Jason highlighted the WASH-related burden of disease in low-income countries - a 12.1% morbidity rate in low-income countries, a figure that rises to 16.8% in Ethiopia. More specifically, WASH indicators are related to outcomes more closely linked to stunting and its lifelong health and economic consequences i.e. delayed cognitive outcomes and lower school attainment, higher exposure to non-communicable diseases in adulthood, economically diminished adult wages and lower GDP. The World Bank report states that “the average country’s GDP per capita is 7% lower than it would have been if none of its workers were stunted in childhood” (World Bank, 2017). This calls for greater investment in WASH programs.
In addition, Jason explained that WASH programs should go beyond focusing on just household WASH program interventions, and include community WASH interventions in order to bring the expected reduction in stunting, explaining that this was likely why the SHINE trials results did not show WASH interventions leading to improvements in stunting. Lastly, community-wide sanitation interventions, inclusive of long-term water services and innovative Social and Behavioral Change Communications strategy (such as aspirational marketing) and disruption of the pathways between the environment and ingestion were provided as key recommendations for WASH intervention program to play a pivotal role in the reduction of stunting.
The second part of the presentation revolved around environmental health in relation to pneumonia. Jason reviewed the WASH factors that resulted in pneumonia – such as limited water access, sanitation access, parasites and costs (financial and other) of accessing water. Other environmental factors he explored were household air pollution and ambient air pollution. Among the recommendations made were Save the Children’s “The Clean Household Approach”. The Clean Household Approach involves working with children who are particularly at risk due to the custom of putting items in their mouths to prevent exposure to contamination.
Following some brief questions and comments from the participants, the meeting closed with a video presentation from Population Services International on Growth through Nutrition's WASH intervention in Debre Markos and Debre Elias.