More than 768 million people are currently without access to safe, clean, drinking water, and 2.5 billion people live without proper sanitation.
This kills nearly 4,000 children each day, according to UNICEF.
A recent report shows that 14 nations that are classified as low and middle-income countries where clean water and soap may not be accessible in comparison to more developed countries, including Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Chile, Guatemala, Pakistan, Nepal, South Africa, Kenya and Cambodia all suffer from sanitation and hygiene programs that can impact a child's growth.
The researchers looked at the effects of 9,469 children and calculated that if countries were to intervene in current programs and help create better support for water quality and soap, children under five could grown an extra 0.5 centimeters.
"We typically think that providing clean water, sanitation and hygiene is an effective way to reduce the incidence and associated deaths from diseases such as diarrhea-which remains the third biggest killer of under fives worldwide," said the reports lead author, Dr. Alan Dangour, a public health nutritionist from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, via the study. "For the first time our analysis suggests that better access to these services may also have a small but important impact on the growth of youth children."
He also added that "While there are some important shortcomings in the available evidence base, we estimate that clean drinking water and effective hand washing could reduce the prevalence of stunting in children under the age of five by up to 15 percent. This is potentially an extremely important finding, that identifies that improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene could be a key part of the tool kit to tackle the global burden of under-nutrition."
Researchers hope that with new studies, their findings could persuade other countries to address the problem affecting so many children across the world.