Diarrheal Disease—Still a Leading Child Killer1
Diarrheal deaths have dropped significantly since 2000, falling from 1.2 million to 526,000 in 2015 – a decline of 57%2.
- Yet children continue to experience an average of three episodes of diarrhea per year3.
- A case of severe diarrhea, especially during important developmental stages, can have a lasting effect on a child’s growth.
- Diarrhea can also make children more susceptible to death from other causes like pneumonia.
Impact on Growth and Development
Even when treatment is available, children still suffer from illness.
- In a recent study in African and Asia, children who experienced a single episode of moderate to severe diarrhea had an 8.5-fold increased risk of death and grew significantly less in length during the two months following their illness compared to similar children who do not experience an episode of diarrhea1.
- Over several decades, studies have pointed to a vicious cycle of malnutrition and diarrhea during the first two years of life that affects brain development and has a profound and lasting effect on children’s growth, school performance, and cognitive development4-7.
- Recent studies have shown early childhood diarrhea impacts children’s intellectual functioning well into late childhood7.
2.UNICEF, One is too many: Ending child deaths from pneumonia and diarrhoea. 2016.
3.Walker, C.L., et al., Global burden of childhood pneumonia and diarrhoea. Lancet, 2013. 381(9875): p. 1405-16.
4.Guerrant, D.I., et al., Association of early childhood diarrhea and cryptosporidiosis with impaired physical fitness and cognitive function four-seven years later in a poor urban community in northeast Brazil. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 1999. 61(5): p. 707-13.
5.Niehaus, M.D., et al., Early childhood diarrhea is associated with diminished cognitive function 4 to 7 years later in children in a northeast Brazilian shantytown. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 2002. 66(5): p. 590-3.
6.Lima, A.A. and R.L. Guerrant, Persistent diarrhea in children: epidemiology, risk factors, pathophysiology, nutritional impact, and management. Epidemiol Rev, 1992. 14: p. 222-42.
7.Pinkerton, R., et al., Early Childhood Diarrhea Predicts Cognitive Delays in Later Childhood Independently of Malnutrition. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 2016. 95(5): p. 1004-1010.