DIARRHOEA: why children are still dying and what can be done

Despite the existence of inexpensive and efficient means of treatment, diarrhoea kills more children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined, according to a new report [1] by UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO). Other research finds that diarrhoea kills 1.5 million over-five-year-olds – mostly adolescents and the elderly – in Africa and South-East Asia, more than three times more than previously thought [2]

There is now an urgent need to shift attention and resources back to treating and preventing diarrhoea, the two UN organisations say.

Some 88 percent of diarrhoeal deaths worldwide are attributable to unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene.

Only 39 per cent of children with diarrhoea receive the recommended treatment.

The UNICEF/WHO report [1] includes information on the causes of diarrhoea, data on access to means of prevention and treatment, and a seven-point plan
to reduce diarrhoea deaths.

The two treatment elements are:
 * fluid replacement to prevent dehydration
 * zinc treatments, which decrease the severity and duration of the attack

The five prevention elements are:
 * immunization against rotavirus and measles
 * early and exclusive breastfeeding and vitamin A supplementation
 * handwashing with soap
 * improved water supply quantity and quality
 * promoting community-wide sanitation.

[1] Johansson, E.M. … [et al.] (2009). Diarrhoea : why children are still dying and what can be done. New York, NY, USA, UNICEF and Geneva, Switzerland, World Health Organization. v, 58 p. ISBN 978-92-806-4462-3 (UNICEF). ISBN 978-92-4-159841-5 (WHO).
Full report [http://www.irc.nl/url/34707]

[2] Diarrhoea kills over a million over-fives each year, Sian Lewis, SciDev.net / WASH News International
[http://www.irc.nl/url/34708], 30 Oct
2009

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About Alan

Settling into my 7th decade and still determined not to grow up too soon.
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