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Improved Use of Toilets Boosts Childhood Cognitive Achievement: World Bank Study

Xinhua News Agency, November 19, 2013 Adjust font size:

Access to improved sanitation can increase children's cognitive skills, and low-cost rural sanitation programs can support children's cognitive development, a new World Bank report showed Monday.

The policy research paper, entitled "Effects of Early-Life Exposure to Sanitation on Childhood Cognitive Skills," was released ahead of the first official UN World Toilet Day which falls on Tuesday.

It studied the effects on childhood cognitive achievement of early life exposure to India's Total Sanitation Campaign, a nation- wide government program that encouraged local governments to build and promote use of inexpensive pit latrines.

"Our research showed that six-year-olds who had been exposed to India's sanitation program during their first year of life were more likely to recognize letters and simple numbers on learning tests than those who were not," said Dean Spears, lead author of the paper. "This is important news -- the study suggests that low- cost rural sanitation strategies such as India's Total Sanitation Campaign can support children's cognitive development."

Currently, more than 2.5 billion people worldwide lack access to toilets, and one billion people practice open defecation -- going outside without using a toilet or latrine, according to the World Bank.

"Open defecation lies at the root of many development challenges, as poor sanitation and lack of access to toilets impact public health, education, and the environment," said Jaehyang So, manager of the World Bank's Water and Sanitation Project, in a statement released Monday. "This recent study joins a growing body of evidence indicating that open defecation harms infants and stunts the growth of young bodies and minds."

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