Latrines May Not Improve Health of Poor Children
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Because of the well-known dangers of open defecation — especially for children’s health — bringing millions of latrines to the poor has long been a goal of public health experts.
But now a major study in India has stunned advocates of latrine building by showing that it may do little good.
Researchers supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine picked 100 villages in the Odisha state of India with a total of 51,000 inhabitants and built large numbers of latrines in half of them. They focused on reaching households with young children.
After more than two years, they found that the health of children in the villages with latrines had not improved. Diarrhea rates were virtually the same. So was the prevalence of parasitic worms that can cause stunting and mental impairment. Children in villages with latrines had not grown faster than children in those without, nor had they even gained more weight.