Mathuram Santosham, the chair of Rotacouncil, produced this piece originally for inpatient optimists.org.
When I started my career in the 1970’s, I saw children die every day from severe diarrheal disease. Today, diarrhea is still responsible for half a million deaths in children under 5 worldwide. That is far too many—acute diarrhea is both preventable and treatable.
Many of these deaths occur because our prevention tools have yet to reach the world’s vulnerable children. The leading cause of severe diarrhea globally is rotavirus, which countries have taken steps to address. After one of the fastest global rollout campaigns in history, 93 countries (home to 1/3 of the world’s children) now include rotavirus vaccines in their national immunization programs.
Introducing vaccines will not completely solve the problem—vaccine coverage must be improved, as must coverage of oral rehydration therapy and zinc supplementation to further reduce the number of deaths and serious illness. Yet, the progress has been remarkable.
(image derived from inpatientoptimists.org)