Stop the Cycle


Diarrhea is Dangerous

Diarrheal disease is a major cause of death and illness. It claims the lives of roughly half a million children under five each year and causes millions more to be hospitalized.

Diarrheal disease is particularly dangerous in poor communities and places where safe water, sanitation, and access to basic medical care may be limited or unavailable.

The state of the field is changing: death is not the only problem or biggest threat.

Diarrhea can have debilitating, long-term consequences. Repeated illnesses in children contribute to a vicious cycle of malnutrition and infections, causing irreversible damage—such as physical stunting and deficiencies in cognitive development.

Diarrhea limits potential for children, their families, and entire communities, keeping them locked in poverty.


But it doesn’t have to be this way.

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

Repeated diarrhea infections are holding children back from reaching their full potential.

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.

We know how to solve the problem.

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.

We need to change the conversation from surviving to thriving.


advocates, scientists, academics, researchers, donors, multilaterals, and national government leaders...


prioritize diarrheal disease and stop the cycle of poor health and poverty...


increasing awareness, making solutions available to everyone who needs them, and establishing diarrhea’s long-term consequences as an urgent priority.

Stop the cycle:
Give every child a healthy start.

The Defeat Diarrheal Disease (DefeatDD) Initiative is a PATH project.

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.

This report will be regularly updated.

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