Proven solutions exist to prevent and treat diarrhea when infants and young children get sick. Since diarrhea has many causes, and infections can respond differently to treatment, successfully combatting it requires an integrated approach that includes both prevention and treatment solutions.
ORS and zinc are frontline treatments. Some cases of severe dehydration may require urgent medical care and intravenous (IV) fluids, which are effective.
It’s not just one intervention. That child deserves to have access to all interventions.
- Dr. Mathu Santosham, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Combining both prevention and treatment solutions is the most effective way to defeat diarrhea and break the cycle of poor health and poverty for children, families, and communities.
Proven solutions include vaccines, WASH (safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene), breastfeeding and proper nutrition, and ORS and zinc treatment. Using these solutions together makes them work better. Diarrhea prevention and treatment solutions are complementary. For example, proper sanitation and hygiene go hand-in-hand. Safe drinking water is a necessary component of ORS and complementary feeding. Effectively implementing WASH solutions is critical to addressing the connection between malnutrition and diarrhea. And rotavirus vaccines only prevent diarrheal disease caused by rotavirus, so additional methods are necessary to prevent and treat other forms of diarrhea.
By integrating prevention and treatment solutions, countries can maximize impact, increase efficiency, and reduce costs.
What all we need is to look beyond certain interventions and not work in silos, hoping that things will change by bringing more interventions in one area of the work. Instead, we need to scale the number of interventions at the national level, benefiting all.
- Dr. Paul P Francis, Technical Officer, WHO India
Many of the solutions for diarrhea can also fight pneumonia. Together, these two illnesses account for one in four deaths in children under five years old. Pneumonia and diarrhea share many of the same risk factors, and integrating policies and programs that address both can have a big impact.
Prevention is critical, especially for children without reliable access to care. Most infections occur where treatments can be hard to access—in poor settings or hard-to-reach communities. World Pneumonia Day is November 12. Learn more.
Recognizing the urgency and potential of an integrated approach, WHO and UNICEF issued the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhea (GAPPD) in 2013. It’s the first plan to simultaneously address pneumonia and diarrhea to protect health, prevent illness, and treat affected children.
Child health programs at every level must address diarrhea and pneumonia to make progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the United Nations Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health.
The International Vaccine Access Center tracks progress to fight diarrhea and pneumonia in the 15 countries with the highest burden. Check out the latest findings (2022), which reveal the challenges that COVID-19 placed on vulnerable health systems and immunization programs.
This is a question of equity. Poor children in low-income countries are most at risk of death from pneumonia or diarrhea but much less likely to get the interventions they need… We know what to do.
- Dr. Mickey Chopra, Lead Service Delivery Specialist, World Bank