Current levels of awareness and attention do not match the scope of the problem. By increasing awareness, making proven solutions widely available to everyone who needs them, and working to re-establish diarrheal disease and its long-term impacts as priorities, we can save and improve the lives of children around the world.
The hard work of advocates, health workers, scientists, donors, and policymakers means that deaths from diarrhea are decreasing. Still, too many children are getting sick, and governments, donor countries, and global health agencies are juggling competing priorities.
Less than half of the countries tracked by the Countdown to 2030 report have costed national plans for maternal, newborn, and child health. We must applaud those countries are already taking action while also warning against complacency as millions of children face the physical and mental impacts of persistent diarrhea and risk fail to reach their full potential. And we must continue to advocate for integrated approaches to give children the healthiest start in life.
Globally, advocates—including donors and policymakers—are already taking clear and bold actions to move the issue of diarrheal disease up on global and national health agendas. In many places, people don’t want to talk about diarrhea—it’s a taboo topic. If people do not want to talk about it, how can we get them to act on it? DefeatDD is trying to change the dialogue by turning taboo into action.
Let’s talk about it.
“We are not settling for lower mortality. We must hold policymakers accountable for protecting children from illness, too–especially in the poorest and most remote communities. Equity is essential.
- Helga Fogstad, Executive Director, The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH)
YOU are. Whether you’re a nongovernmental (NGO) or civil society (CSO) staffer, a health care worker, a doctor, a parent, a researcher, or an academic, you can help bring more attention and urgency to diarrheal disease. Below are some examples of how advocates are already shining a spotlight on the issue. No matter who you are, you can take action. Here are some ideas.
Inform policies related to diarrhea and child health, and hold policymakers accountable for implementing them. If you know what works to defeat diarrhea in your community, contribute to development, revision, and passage of national and subnational policies to include global best practices for diarrhea prevention and control. Once policies and plans are in place, you can hold leaders and policymakers accountable by ensuring that solutions reach communities and that budgets are allocated and correctly spent.
Call for increased budgets for diarrheal disease solutions and programs. Solutions for diarrhea are simple and cost-effective, but they require resources, which are often ignored or under-funded when health budgets are developed. You can call for funding for an integrated set of solutions to address diarrhea.
Bring the issue of diarrhea to greater public awareness. Greater visibility for diarrhea can lead to more widespread delivery of solutions. Bringing attention to the consequences of and solutions for diarrhea can help get prevention and treatment interventions to families and children who need them. Advocates around the world are using radio, social media, and their own voices to spread the word.
Use and generate data to inform research and funding decisions. The data supporting a need for diarrhea solutions is strong—so if you’re talking about diarrhea, facts and figures should be part of your messaging.
If you’re an academic, scientist, or researcher, you have a special role to play in conducting and championing research on both the long-term consequences of diarrhea and innovative solutions to address it.
Collaborate with partners to encourage an integrated approach. If you’re a health professional or a civil society representative, you can join with others in a partnership or coalition effort to support and implement proven, integrated solutions against diarrhea.
Increase financial support for adaptable, integrated diarrheal disease programs and research. Your financial support to innovative funding mechanisms that support diarrhea treatment and prevention—such as the Global Financing Facility—can save countless children’s lives and ensure their futures. More technical and funding support for countries that are developing national plans, adopting The Integrated Global Action Plan for Pneumonia and Diarrhoea (GAPPD) and Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses (IMCI) as part of their national child survival commitment, and/or addressing diarrhea through integrated solutions is critical for continued progress.
Provide resources for programs. Provide resources for programs and research that feature innovative, cost-effective ways to deliver integrated approaches. As a donor, you can ensure more solutions reach larger populations by incentivizing, funding, and measuring flexible approaches that combine and deliver the most-needed solutions. Specifically, include requirements in your calls/requests for proposals that prioritize programs implementing the GAPPD approach.
Champion best practices and global guidance for an integrated approach to diarrhea, especially the GAPPD. You provide technical assistance to donors and national governments to implement the plans and guidance that already exists, including the integrated approach outlined in the GAPPD. Harness the strength of regional and national program staff to work with member countries on effective implementation of global and national strategies for diarrhea treatment and prevention.
Work with donors to allocate and track funding that promotes global best practices and recommendations. Improve the tracking of cross-sectoral investments to better understand return on investment and enable stronger accountability.
Provide guidance to national and subnational governments to ensure interventions focus on high-impact solutions. Serve as an advocate for regular policy updates that incorporate global best practices and recommendations.
Procure high-quality commodities and tools to improve access and accountability to proven treatment solutions and vaccines. Ensure efficient prequalification of relevant, high-quality, effective interventions—especially those manufactured locally—to lower costs and ensure WHO-approved commodities are available to all children.
Adapt global standards on diarrheal disease and integration to your local policy and programmatic needs. Global guidance exists, so adapting those best practices to your local context can help to increase the effectiveness of programs and policies. Use the GAPPD and IMCI to determine what specific plans, investments, and partners are needed at the national and subnational level to achieve the greatest health impact.
Prioritize the fight against diarrhea through integrated policies and increased domestic and partner resource mobilization. Prioritizing more domestic funding demonstrates greater commitment to improving child health. Ensure that integrated diarrheal disease solutions are included in Global Financing Facility Country Investment Case frameworks, as well as other funding mechanisms.
Encourage and incentivize cross-sectoral action and collaboration to bring integrated solutions to all communities. All too often, WASH, health programs, and departments are segmented into silos—creating barriers to reaching a common goal of addressing diarrheal disease. Creating linkages can help to promote an integrated approach.
Together, we can Stop the Cycle.