Diarrheal diseases such as cholera, rotavirus and E. coli cause intense episodes of diarrhea which depletes the body of water and electrolytes (sodium, chloride, potassium, etc.) and eventually can lead to death if not treated. Unsanitary water, poor waste management, coming into contact with fecal matter and a lack of access to health care often are causes of these diseases. While diarrheal diseases impact people all across the globe, one of the areas in which people suffer from them the most is South Asia.
5 Facts About Diarrheal Disease in South Asia
- A substantial number of worldwide diarrheal disease-related deaths happen in South Asia. According to 2016 reports, diarrheal diseases are the eighth highest cause of death globally among people of all ages. Even more, they are the fifth highest cause of death in children under 5. Diarrheal diseases also disproportionately affect South Asian countries such as India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Bhutan. About 90% of deaths related to diarrheal disease worldwide occur in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
- Children in South Asia are much more likely to die from a diarrheal disease than anything else. A 2020 study that BMC Public Health conducted in India found that diarrheal diseases caused 50% of deaths in children aged 1 to 5, putting children at a higher risk when it comes to diarrheal diseases.
- Diarrheal diseases disproportionately affect areas in South Asia with poor access to health care, sanitation and clean water. Once again, a 2020 study that BMC Public Health conducted found that in India, factors such as improper stool disposal in the home, having a dirt floor, having a thatched roof and environmental issues all contributed to a person’s likelihood of contracting a diarrheal disease. Evidence showed that 46.5% of children in the study had no access to a toilet facility, and the children with toilets were 18% less likely to contract a diarrheal disease. Of the people in this study, 43% of the children lived in houses with dirt floors, and some also had thatched roofs. These people were 8% more likely to contract a diarrheal disease. These statistics show just how threatening diarrheal diseases are to people living in South Asia without basic human needs.
- Despite this grim data, the negative effect of diarrheal disease is lessening in South Asia. In response to this high amount of diarrheal disease-related deaths in South Asia, many groups, government and not, are making efforts to end this crisis. Between 1990 and 2010, diarrheal disease-related deaths decreased by 55%. One organization in particular, The Gates Foundation, focuses on the development and delivery of safe and affordable vaccines for many diarrheal diseases. This organization began working in South Asia in 2003, with the implementation of an HIV vaccine in India. Between 2003 and 2014, The Gates Foundation implemented more than 170 million vaccines in the region.
WHO and UNICEF Providing Help
In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF released a comprehensive plan in 2013 that will help lower diarrheal deaths worldwide, especially in high-risk places such as South Asia. This plan outlines many goals such as reducing mortality from diarrhea in children less than 5 years of age to fewer than one per 1,000 live births and 90% access to appropriate pneumonia and diarrhea case management by 2025. With these goals, the plan also lists steps that will be taken and that are being taken to achieve them such as administering vaccines, initiation of breastfeeding amongst new mothers and providing uncontaminated drinking water to areas that do not have access.
In conclusion, diarrheal diseases are very deadly to citizens of South Asia, especially children under 5, and people without access to proper waste disposal, health care and clean water. While these illnesses are very prevalent, they are also very preventable, and given the aid of organizations such as the Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization, South Asia is already lowering the number of deaths diarrheal diseases cause.
– Evelyn Breitbach