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An Unexpected Trio: Hygiene, Nutrition, and Chemistry

This year we’ve all been reminded of the importance of washing our hands often and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces in the battle against the COVID-19 virus. But we probably haven’t thought of how our nutrition intersects with our ability to fight infections, like COVID-19. Americans are generally well fed and undernourishment is not a widespread concern. We also have safe drinking water from the tap that protects us from waterborne diseases. The same cannot be said in developing countries like Haiti.

In Haiti, nutrition, hygiene, and chemistry are directly connected. When a person is malnourished, the risk of having complications from COVID-19 or other infectious diseases increases. The unfortunate fact that many in Haiti are malnourished and safe drinking water is not readily available, underscores the role hygiene and disinfection play in helping prevent infections in the first place. Improving hygiene relies on chemistry, especially chlorine chemistry, which is essential to disinfect both surfaces and unsafe drinking water that can harbor waterborne pathogens.

Hygiene interventions help reduce the risk malnourishment poses to a person’s ability to ward off and cope with infections. To help improve hygiene in Haiti, in March, the Chlorine Chemistry Foundation (CCF) donated $10,000 to the Children’s Nutrition Program of Haiti (CNP) to increase access to hygiene kits for families in Haiti. That donation enabled CNP to provide hygiene kits to 458 families in Haiti.

Each hygiene kit given to the 458 families included masks, a handwashing station, chlorine bleach for water treatment and surface disinfection, and soap. These essential components we often take for granted in the U.S. have proven critical in protecting families from COVID-19 in this community in Haiti. The hygiene kits seem to be serving their purpose well –not a single CNP staff member or child of the 458 families that received a kit has been diagnosed with COVID-19 since March.

Donations like the one made by the Chlorine Chemistry Foundation are only impactful if they can reach the families in need. CCF does not have that capacity but CNP does, along with the expertise and trust of the community to accept the kits and encourage hygiene practices. This highlights the need for trusted partners in turning donations into on-the-ground action with tangible benefits. Just as nutrition, hygiene and chemistry intersect to help prevent and cope with infections, so do donations and organizations on the ground to improve access to basic health resources.

The moon is not visible without the sun. Although we can’t see the moon during the day, moonlight cannot exist without sunlight. The same goes for hygiene and nutrition. They may seem disconnected but they aren’t, and chemistry is the light that connects the two. If you would like to learn more about the Children’s Nutrition Program of Haiti, please visit cnphaiti.org.

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