32.3.2  How common are diarrhoeal diseases?

Child with diarrhoea

Diarrhoeal diseases are the second largest cause of death globally among children aged under five years – only pneumonia and other acute respiratory infections (ARIs, the subject of Study Session 35) account for more child deaths worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1.5 million children in this age group die from diarrhoeal diseases every year, almost half of them in Africa. The most vulnerable children are the youngest ones, particularly before their second birthday. In Ethiopia, 23% of deaths in children aged under five years is due to diarrhoeal diseases – around 73,000 such deaths every year. Diarrhoeal diseases kill more children than malaria, HIV/AIDS and measles combined.

  • Why do you think children are especially likely to be infected with the organisms that cause diarrhoeal diseases?

  • There are many reasons, but you may have suggested that children are less likely than adults to wash their hands after defaecating, and more likely to put their fingers or dirty objects into their mouths, and also more likely to play in soil where they may come into contact with faeces.

32.4  Diagnosis and treatment of faeco-oral diseases