Diarrhoea is a leading cause of death in children under five years old. It is also one of the most common causes of illness and disability in adults and children worldwide. Diarrhoea can be treated with simple, affordable and effective interventions such as oral rehydration salts (ORS) solution, zinc for diarrhoea treatment, antibiotics and vaccines against rotavirus, which causes severe diarrhoea in infants.
Diarrhoeal diseases are the number one cause of death in children under five
Diarrhoea is the second leading cause of death in children under five years old and the first leading cause of malnutrition. It’s also a major factor in stunting, which affects 190 million children under five years old worldwide.
Several different factors can cause diarrhoea:
- Infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses or parasites that contaminate food or water
- Unhygienic conditions and lack of access to clean water and sanitation facilities
Most diarrhoeal disease cases (90%) and deaths (90%) occur in developing countries
Diarrhoea is a preventable, treatable and reversible condition. Diarrhoea is one of the major causes of death in children under five years of age worldwide. In Africa, diarrhoeal diseases account for about 90% of all deaths due to infectious diseases among children below five years old.
Diarrhoea can also cause severe dehydration and malnutrition that can lead to stunting or even death in severe cases.
In addition to these health consequences, the long-term impact on families’ ability to provide food and care for their children often results in child labour and early marriage – behaviours that put young girls at risk for sexual abuse or exploitation by older men.
Diarrhoea can be treated and prevented with simple, affordable and effective interventions
Oral rehydration solution (ORS) is considered to be the best treatment for diarrhoea. It is a low-cost treatment that can be made locally and requires no special equipment. ORS helps prevent or treat dehydration by replacing lost fluids and salts, which are important for the body’s normal functioning. If you or your child have diarrhoea, here are some ways you can use ORS:
- Dilute one teaspoon of sugar with 150ml of clean water. Give this to your child every 10 minutes until they stop having loose motions (up to six times a day). This will help replace lost sugars and salts that their body needs to fight infection caused by the pathogen causing the diarrhoea.
- For infants under six months old with severe dehydration, ORS solution should only be given if it is diluted in equal parts of clean water and breastmilk or infant formula; otherwise, it must be treated as an emergency procedure as it will help prevent further dehydration from occurring.”
The Rotavirus vaccine is recommended for all babies ages 6 weeks to 24 months old who aren’t otherwise immune to the disease
The rotavirus vaccine is recommended for all babies ages 6 weeks to 24 months old who aren’t otherwise immune to the disease. Babies should receive two doses of the rotavirus vaccine, one at 2 and one at 4 months.
Babies are not recommended to receive the rotavirus vaccine if they have ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction after a previous dose or have had a severe reaction within 48 hours after getting any other diphtheria, tetanus or pertussis-containing vaccine (DTaP).
Most children with diarrhoea who need treatment do not receive it
Diarrhoea is a treatable and preventable condition. As such, it is the leading cause of death in children under five. Yet most children with diarrhoea who need treatment do not receive it.
Diarrhoea is a common and deadly disease in Africa. It is the number one killer of children under five years old worldwide. There are simple, affordable and effective treatments for diarrhoea that could save many lives if they were more widely used. However, most children with diarrhoea who need treatment do not receive it because it is too expensive for their families, or there are no health facilities nearby where they can go for help.