Thousands of references link nutrition and learning – all giving the same overwhelming conclusion. Poor nutrition leads to negative consequences for learning. The research even suggests that accelerated nutrition after a period of poor nutrition in infancy and early childhood does not stop the negative developmental consequences.
“These results suggest that poor early nutrition can have long-lasting negative consequences for cognitive ability…..” Author not cited, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/07/060721203414.htm
Public Library of Science, July 25, 2006
So what does clean water have to do with nutrition? Again, several research publications indicate that chronic infection/ inflammation of the small intestine lead to mal-absorption, which in turn leads to malnutrition. The single biggest cause of intestinal infection/ inflammation in developing countries is poor drinking water.
“One of the important consequences of the infection-nutrition interaction is mediated by malabsorption associated with chronic inflammation in the intestine, enteritis.”
Irwin H. Rosenberg, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University, Boston, MA Symposium: Nutrition and Infection, Prologue and Progress Since 1968Tropical Enteritis: Nutritional Consequences and Connections with the Riddle of Cholera © 2003 The American Society for Nutritional Sciences J. Nutr. 133:333S-335S, January 2003
Whether from worms, other parasites, viruses, or bacteria, contamination in drinking water leads to chronic inflammation and infection in the small intestine. Simply put: the intestine shuts down to protect the human body, and this leads to malnutrition.
Often our focus in providing clean water has been childhood survival, and indeed this is an important focus. However, to bring permanent change to the developing world we also have to focus on developmental issues. For example, look at the simple logical connection between permanent change, development, and clean water:
→ Literacy (which opens the doors to education) strongly correlates to economic well being and growth in developing countries. A literate person, on average, earns 10-20x more in their lifetime than an illiterate person!
→ Nutrition heavily correlates to cognitive abilities, including the ability to read. Good nutrition therefore heavily contributes to literacy.
→ Even with a good diet, a child may be malnourished if their body is “under attack” from infectious agents.
→ Poor quality drinking water is the single biggest source of chronic infection, leading to mal-absorption, which in turn leads to malnutrition.
The foundation of any developmental intervention must start, then, with good drinking water and good nutrition. However, this alone is not enough. It must be followed by a strong literacy and educational program. Finally, a complete program must be patient. Change takes time – often a generation or more.
Why Gift of Water in Haiti?
“The Gift of Water (Kado Dlo) water program is a highly successful, growing rural clean water program in Haiti. It offers the people the highest quality of water relative to the other programs I’ve studied.”
Daniele Lantagne, Env.E., P.E., U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
“For children of age 5 and under, the (Gift of Water) filter was associated with a lower diarrheal probability of 16 percentage points (50% reduction), controlling for all other factors. The average incidence of diarrhea in the group was 31.16%.”
Arun Varghese, BS Chm.E., MPA, ME Env. E.; Point-of-Use Water Treatment Systems In Rural Haiti: Human Health and Water Quality Impact Assessment; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; May 2002
“70% of the children with access to the Gift of Water purifier have stayed worm-free for the past two years, after successful de-worming. None of the children without access to the Gift of Water purifier have remained worm-free over the same time period.”
R.A. DeSutter, St. Thomas Aquinas Newman Center Medical Missions, (Baudin, Haiti), January 2007
“The chlorination-only system used in Gros Morne, Haiti, did not produce potable water from the various water sources in the area. The Gift of Water system did provide potable water with much higher clarity.”
Larry Newman C.E., P.E., March, 2007, from an (unpublished) study of water resources in northwest Haiti.
Gift of Water has a fourteen year history of operating in rural Haiti. Its continuous improvement focus has allowed it to adapt to the special needs in Haiti. This has resulted in a program that combines the following:
- Simple but highly effective technologies built within the country
- Community and school education
- Monitoring (monthly) and one-on-one follow-up
- Train the “teacher” classes
Gift of Water tests and audits to make sure that our charitable efforts are successful and continue to improve!
As a result, Gift of Water consistently has some of the highest compliance and correct utilization statistics in the world. This, in turn, directly relates to health benefits for small children, which in turn relates to better development of cognitive skills.
Why is Clean Water So Important