Due to a lack of clean water, poor sanitation and ignorance on hygiene education, 4,000 people – most of them children – will die today because of diarrhoea. Nearly twenty per cent of children under the age of five die as a result of dehydration, weakened immunity or malnutrition associated with the condition. But diarrhoea is preventable and easily treatable.
In the new report – entitled ‘Diarrhoea: Why children are still dying and what can be done’ – UNICEF and WHO recommend a package of interventions to save the lives of children stricken by diarrhoea includes two treatment and five prevention elements.
The two treatment elements are:
1. Fluid replacement to prevent dehydration; and
2. Zinc treatments, which decrease the severity and duration of the attack.
The five prevention elements are:
1. Immunisation against rotavirus and measles;
2. Early and exclusive breastfeeding and vitamin A supplementation;
3. Handwashing with soap;
4. Improved water supply quantity and quality; and
5. Promoting community-wide sanitation.
While mortality from diarrhoea among children under five has declined over the past two decades, overall incidence has remained steady at 2.5 billion cases per year. South Asia and Africa continue to shoulder the heaviest burden.
For more than twenty years, RESULTS UK has promoted cost-effective interventions to reduce child mortality. This month activists have been drawing attention to the benefits of handwashing with soap which could reduce diarrhoeal deaths by half if practised universally.