There is a risk that policymakers will shift their focus and resources away from diarrhea as deaths decline. However, the toll remains high, just more hidden, as children survive but suffer the lasting, devastating consequences of recurring infections. It is clear: persistent attention and advocacy are needed.
- Steve Davis, CEO, PATH
Children living in poverty are subjected to an onslaught of environmental pathogens every day. These pathogens cause diarrhea and other asymptomatic infections, leading to chronic gut inflammation and putting children at risk of future infections and malnutrition.
Diarrhea is also expensive. When a family has to spend its savings on emergency medical treatment and travel logistics to get that treatment, the family will have less money for other essentials like food, rent, or education. Additionally, when a caretaker has to take time off work to care for a sick child, they may lose wages or business opportunities. All these contribute to the vicious cycle of ill health and poverty.
In recent years, millions of children’s lives have been saved. Deaths from diarrhea declined from more than 1 million among children under five years in 1990 to roughly 500,000 in 2015. This is great news, but it means that half a million children still die from diarrhea each year, and countless more are held back because of persistent, repeated infections.
Diarrhea is not a new issue and remains a chronic problem in low- and middle-income countries; it is one of many menacing health threats competing for attention and funding.
For children in poor communities, diarrhea remains a major cause of death and can lead to lasting consequences. Simple and proven tools can prevent and treat diarrhea, and integrating them achieves the greatest impact. By joining these tools and our voices together, we can protect children everywhere from diarrheal disease.
The report that follows is a comprehensive resource with the latest research and evidence on diarrheal disease and the solutions available to prevent and control it. It will be regularly updated as new information emerges. It is intended to be used by advocates (including scientists, academics, and researchers), donors, multilaterals, and national government leaders to take action and join the movement to defeat diarrheal disease.Continue to The Challenge