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Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in sub-Saharan Africa and associations with undernutrition, and governance in children under five years of age: a systematic review

  • D. J. Momberg (a1) (a2), B. C. Ngandu (a1), L. E. Voth-Gaeddert (a1) (a2), K. Cardoso Ribeiro (a1), J. May (a2), S. A. Norris (a1) (a3) and R. Said-Mohamed (a1) (a2) (a3)...


Associations between different forms of malnutrition and environmental conditions, including water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), may contribute towards persistently poor child health, growth and cognitive development. Experiencing poor nutrition in utero or during early childhood is furthermore associated with chronic diseases later in life. The primary responsibility for provision of water and sanitation, as a basic service and human right, lies with the State; however, a number of stakeholders are involved. The situation is most critical in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), where, in 2015, 311 million people lacked a safe water source, and >70% of SSA populations were living without adequate sanitation. The aim of this paper was to conduct a systematic review to investigate the state of literature concerned with WASH and its association with nutritional status, and governance in children from birth to 5 years of age in SSA. Articles were sourced from PubMed Central, Science Direct and ProQuest Social Science databases published between 1990 and 2017. The PRISMA Statement was utilised and this systematic review is registered with PROSPERO (CRD42017071700). The search terms returned 15,351 articles for screening, with 46 articles included. This is indicative of a limited body of knowledge; however, the number of publications on this topic has been increasing, suggesting burgeoning field of interest. Targeted research on the governance of WASH through the identification of the various role players and stakeholders at various levels, while understanding the policy environment in relation to particular health-related outcomes is imperative to address the burden of child undernutrition.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: D. J. Momberg, SAMRC/WITS Developmental Pathways for Health Research Unit, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, School of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa; DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa. Email:


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Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in sub-Saharan Africa and associations with undernutrition, and governance in children under five years of age: a systematic review

  • D. J. Momberg (a1) (a2), B. C. Ngandu (a1), L. E. Voth-Gaeddert (a1) (a2), K. Cardoso Ribeiro (a1), J. May (a2), S. A. Norris (a1) (a3) and R. Said-Mohamed (a1) (a2) (a3)...


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