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Child deaths from diarrhoea down but stay highest in poorest nations

Child deaths globally due to diarrhoea have fallen by a third in 10 years, but mortality rates remain highest in some of the world’s poorest countries, research shows.

Child deaths globally due to diarrhoea have fallen by a third in 10 years, but mortality rates remain highest in some of the world’s poorest countries, research shows

children
Diarrhoeal diseases disproportionately affect children in India. Picture: iStock

The number of child deaths globally caused by diarrhoea have fallen by a third in 10 years, research shows.

However, mortality rates remain highest in some of the world’s poorest countries, with the condition killing almost 500,000 children under the age of 5 each year.

The Global Burden of Disease study found diarrhoea is the fourth-biggest cause of children’s deaths and is responsible for 8.6% of all deaths of children aged under 5.

The study looked at incidence of diarrhoea and deaths from the condition between 2005 and 2015.

Devastating impact

Over this 10-year period the largest reductions occurred in sub-Saharan Africa.

In 2015, India and Nigeria accounted for 42% of the 499,000 child deaths worldwide from diarrhoea. Total deaths worldwide from the condition that year totalled 1.31 million.

Lead author Ali Mokdad, of the University of Washington in Seattle, said: ‘Diarrhoeal diseases disproportionately affect young children.

‘Despite some promising reductions in mortality, the devastating impact of these diseases cannot be overlooked. Immediate and sustained actions must be taken to help low-income countries address this problem by increasing healthcare access and the use of oral rehydration solutions.’

The study estimates that in 2015 there were 2.39 billion episodes of diarrhoeal disease globally, with 957.5 million of these being in children.


Mokdad A et al (2017) Estimates of global, regional, and national morbidity, mortality, and aetiologies of diarrhoeal diseases: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015. Lancet Infectious Diseases. doi:10.1016/ S1473-3099(17)30276-1

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