e-Library of Evidence for Nutrition Actions (eLENA)

Water, sanitation and hygiene interventions to prevent diarrhoea

Diarrhoea remains a leading cause of death globally among children under five years of age. Diarrhoea contributes to nutritional deficiencies, reduced resistance to infections and impaired growth and development. Severe diarrhoea leads to fluid loss, and may be life-threatening, particularly in young children and people who are already malnourished or have impaired immunity.

Diarrhoea mostly results from lack of safe drinking-water, adequate sanitation and hygiene. A number of interventions are effective in preventing diarrhoeal diseases, thereby positively impacting the nutritional status of those most vulnerable. These are:

  • Access to safe drinking water (e.g. water safety planning (the management of water from the source to tap); household water treatment and safe storage)
  • Access to improved sanitation facilities
  • Hand washing with soap at critical times (e.g. after toilet use and before the preparation of food)

Hygiene promotion, along with access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation should be accessible by all.

WHO recommendations

Guidance information on drinking-water quality can be found in the document, Guidelines for drinking-water quality, fourth edition, under ‘WHO Documents’ below.

WHO documents

WHO documents

GRC-approved guidelines

Status: not currently available

Other guidance documents


Related Cochrane reviews
Other related systematic reviews
Clinical trials

Last update:

15 June 2017 14:51 CEST

Category 2 intervention

Systematic review(s) have been conducted but no recent guidelines yet available that have been approved by the WHO Guidelines Review Committee

Biological, behavioural and contextual rationale

Global targets

Implementation of this intervention may contribute to the achievement of the following targets:

Global nutrition targets

Target 1: 40% reduction in the number of children under-5 who are stunted