Young children’s stool is perceived to be less harmful than adults’ faeces and is often discarded in the open or buried. Such practices, however, run counter to the evidence that children’s faeces have more harmful pathogens given the higher incidence of enteric infections among young children than among adults.
Young children are prone to ingesting faecal pathogens, with behaviours such as mouthing, geophagia, and physical exploration of their environment increasing children’s contact with faecal pathogens in their living environment. In India, children whose stools were discarded inappropriately had 11% greater odds of diarrhoea as compared to children whose faeces were handled safely.
Further, an increase in the unsafe disposal of children’s stool at the community level significantly increased the risk of diarrhoea in children, more than the improper disposal of the index child’s excreta alone. A greater focus on safe disposal of child faeces can therefore confer important health benefits for children.