Association between water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and child undernutrition in Ethiopia: a hierarchical approach

Biniyam Sahiledengle, Pammla Petrucka, Abera Kumie, Lillian Mwanri, Girma Beressa, Daniel Atlaw, Yohannes Tekalegn, Demisu Zenbaba, Fikreab Desta, Kingsley Emwinyore Agho

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9 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Undernutrition is a significant public health challenge and one of the leading causes of child mortality in a wide range of developing countries, including Ethiopia. Poor access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) facilities commonly contributes to child growth failure. There is a paucity of information on the interrelationship between WASH and child undernutrition (stunting and wasting). This study aimed to assess the association between WASH and undernutrition among under-five-year-old children in Ethiopia. Methods: A secondary data analysis was undertaken based on the Ethiopian Demographic and Health Surveys (EDHS) conducted from 2000 to 2016. A total of 33,763 recent live births extracted from the EDHS reports were included in the current analysis. Multilevel logistic regression models were used to investigate the association between WASH and child undernutrition. Relevant factors from EDHS data were identified after extensive literature review. Results: The overall prevalences of stunting and wasting were 47.29% [95% CI: (46.75, 47.82%)] and 10.98% [95% CI: (10.65, 11.32%)], respectively. Children from households having unimproved toilet facilities [AOR: 1.20, 95% CI: (1.05,1.39)], practicing open defecation [AOR: 1.29, 95% CI: (1.11,1.51)], and living in households with dirt floors [AOR: 1.32, 95% CI: (1.12,1.57)] were associated with higher odds of being stunted. Children from households having unimproved drinking water sources were significantly less likely to be wasted [AOR: 0.85, 95% CI: (0.76,0.95)] and stunted [AOR: 0.91, 95% CI: (0.83, 0.99)]. We found no statistical differences between improved sanitation, safe disposal of a child’s stool, or improved household flooring and child wasting. Conclusion: The present study confirms that the quality of access to sanitation and housing conditions affects child linear growth indicators. Besides, household sources of drinking water did not predict the occurrence of either wasting or stunting. Further longitudinal and interventional studies are needed to determine whether individual and joint access to WASH facilities was strongly associated with child stunting and wasting.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1943
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 19 Oct 2022


  • EDHS data
  • Ethiopia
  • Hierarchical models
  • Stunting
  • Under-five children
  • WASH
  • Wasting


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