Clean water, hygiene: Crucial in solving malnutrition, child stunting
MAPping the Future

Clean water, hygiene: Crucial in solving malnutrition, child stunting

Addressing the root causes of malnutrition and child stunting requires a holistic approach to break the cycle. Beyond the provision of nutritious food, vitamins and nutrients, clean water and hygiene are foundational elements to eventually eradicating the problem. Access to clean drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) can create an environment where children and their families have a better chance of achieving and maintaining good nutritional health.

Clean water is essential for proper digestion and absorption of nutrients from food as well as prevention of waterborne diseases like diarrhea, cholera and parasitic infections. Pregnant mothers with access to clean drinking water can avoid such waterborne diseases that can affect the infant during feeding. Complemented by good hygiene, including regular hand-washing, the spread of infections can be prevented.

This is the conventional wisdom behind the Campaign against Malnutrition and Child Stunting (CAMACS) engagement and continuing collaboration of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) with corporate foundations, government and nongovernmental organizations—to enable a comprehensive and holistic approach to help eradicate the long-standing problem.


The various meetings held with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to discuss CAMACS, supplemented by MAP’s due diligence findings, highlighted the most pressing need for clean water and daycare center rehabilitation among the 235 identified municipalities (5,936 barangays) under their Philippine Multisectoral Nutrition Project (PMNP). The DSWD mapped the PMNP subprojects (SPs) based on CAMACS and the list of both fully funded and unfunded SPs were identified. Based on the data, Region V or the Bicol Region has the most critical requirement for water projects.


For the fully funded SPs of the 235 barangays, the private sector’s wealth of resources and expertise in providing technical assistance is valuable and badly needed. We call on all MAP members with this expertise to respond to the call. For the unfunded SPs, MAP can serve as the link to connect them with partners who can help and financially support implementation of these programs.

CAMACS WASH partners and plans

The data shared by DSWD showed that there are 3,911 identified unfunded SPs—834 on WASH and 3,077 on early childhood care and development (ECCD) that need assistance with:

  • WASH-related SPs
  • Construction/Improvement of sanitary toilet
  • Construction/Rehabilitation/Expansion of water systems
  • Water supply
  • Rainwater catchment
  • Handwashing facilities
  • Here are the ECCD-related SPs:
  • Construction / Improvement of daycare centers
  • ECCD-related trainings and educational materials
  • Communal gardening resources
  • Feeding program facilities
  • Kitchen amenities

Five CAMACS partner organizations can help the SPs with their WASH concerns. These are Manila Water Foundation (MWF), Maynilad, Water.Org, Waves for Water (W4W) and Coca Cola Foundation. To avoid overlaps, DSWD will partner with MWF and Maynilad, while MAP will link arms with Water.Org, W4W and Coca Cola Foundation.

TMWF and Maynilad can undertake technical assessment of barangays, give recommendations and interventions for WASH programs and provide technical training. On the part of MAP, it will collaborate with Water.Org to increase universal access to water sanitation as well as link W4W to potential funders. W4W’s track record includes the installation of 214 rainwater catchment tanks, implementation of 27,324 water filtration systems and experience in setting up one filter per household ratio or a sharing scheme among three to four and up to 20 households. They have likewise set up water depots in public areas with two filters each attached. Water.Org, on the other hand, provides microfinancing of about P5,000 payable in two years for every household.

However, promoting clean water and hygiene practices requires community education. Teaching communities about the importance of clean water sources, proper sanitation and hygiene helps build a foundation for long-term health and nutrition. Implementing behavior change communication strategies within these communities can help foster a greater understanding of the importance of clean water and hygiene. And engaging them will promote positive behavioral changes related to water use and sanitation.

The ECCD and education will be undertaken and MAP’s main initiative will be through DDB Philippines, which will craft a First 1,000 Days Handbook containing a nutrition guide for babies from conception until 2 years of age. Mothers can access this online and download for their use. MAP will also undertake the production of a creative video for the First 1,000 Days Orientation. This will also be published, and partners to help in funding this will be sourced and engaged.


WASH-ing malnutrition and child stunting away

Successful models to reduce malnutrition and child stunting often involve a combination of interventions customized to the specific needs and circumstances of the target communities. Sustainable solutions require community involvement, education and a multisectoral approach that addresses both water access and nutritional well-being.

As citizens of a country with a huge economic divide, we, as business people, should rise to the call to action and help solve this long-standing social problem. Income inequality in the Philippines widens the gap between those who can afford comfortable lives and those who remain in poverty. While our neighboring countries are posting improvements in this area, we lag behind and this should be a wake-up call.

The CAMACS is a good starting point to start narrowing the social and economic divide, especially among those families in the fifth and sixth class municipalities, many of whom are farmers and fisherfolk. Providing access to clean water and sanitation can go a long way in easing their burdens and providing them with better quality of life.

MAP remains committed to harness multisectoral contributions and intensify the efforts for CAMACS to succeed. We will continue to support the PMNP and collaborate with DSWD so that working together, we can achieve the goal of providing our children a better future. INQ

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The author is president of MAP and the founding partner and CEO of Du-Baladad and Associates or BDB Law. Feedback at [email protected] and [email protected].

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