Improving child development outcomes: the role of WASH

Project Details

three boys washing hands

Everyone has the right to safely managed sanitation and hygiene. While progress has been made over the last 5 years, access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene remains elusive for billions of people across the globe. According to recent data from UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO),1 over 3.6 billion people do not have access to a safely managed sanitation service, with 494 million people still practicing open defecation. Furthermore, 2.3 billion people lack basic handwashing facilities at home. We need to make sure no one is left behind in the drive to secure safe services for all by 2030.

We have been commissioned to explore the interlinkages between environmental cleanliness, sanitation, and hygiene practices for improved child development outcomes.  Our project will explore additional pathways, moving beyond hand hygiene to consider food hygiene and broader environmental cleanliness, beyond human faeces to consider animals and animal faeces and explore how broader environmental improvement can impact child development outcomes.

We will identify barriers and gaps in knowledge towards achieving these outcomes; and seek to understand how programmes can be adapted to address the complexity of these challenges.

This project will examine the following questions:

  • What evidence currently exists linking child development, environmental cleanliness and sanitation and hygiene?
  • What examples are there of sanitation and hygiene programmes that are engaging with environmental cleanliness and child development considerations?
  • How do programmes engage across these considerations?
  • What is the evidence of their success?
  • What are good case studies of holistic interdisciplinary efforts?
  • What are the ongoing challenges and gaps?
  • What are the main gaps in knowledge and understanding around how to address child development through improved environmental cleanliness, sanitation and hygiene?
  • What are common practices and lessons from the literature across the various academic disciplines
  • What are the recommendations for the sanitation and hygiene sector to better address child development through improved environmental cleanliness, sanitation and hygiene? How can they be operationalised?

The Frontiers of Sanitation report is scheduled to be released in October and a dissemination workshop on the study will be held


Project lead
Ms Alison Macintyre
Project team
Clare Strachan


This research is funded by Sanitation Learning Hub at the Institute of Development Studies in the UK

Research Publications

Sanitation, Hygiene and Environmental Cleanliness
(PDF 1.5 MB)

Research Group

Health Systems Governance and Financing

School Research Themes

Prevention and management of non-communicable diseases (including cancer), and promotion of mental health, Data science, health metrics and disease modeling

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact the research group leader.

Department / Centre

Nossal Institute for Global Health

MDHS Research library
Explore by researcher, school, project or topic.