The World Health
Organization reports diarrheal disease causes 20 percent of the deaths among
children under five.
The World Health Organization says each year 1.8-million children, or four
children every minute, die from this easily preventable and curable disease.
Lead report author Olivier Fontaine is Medical Officer with WHO's Department of
Child and Adolescent Health and Development. He says it is totally unacceptable
that children in poor countries should die simply because they cannot get the
treatment they need to stay alive.
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"We have tools to treat diarrhea and to really reduce mortality. In fact,
we have two very cost-effective tools ... Oral re-hydration salt-it is only
five cents a packet and zinc tablets, about 10 cents for a treatment. With this
treatment, we can reduce mortality due to diarrhea. In fact, we have done it.
In 1980, five-million kids under five were dying of diarrhea and in 20 years, we
have reduced that to 1.8 million. This means that about 50-million kids have
been saved from dying of diarrhea because of this very cheap treatment."
But, Dr. Fontaine says, the situation has stagnated in the past 10 years with
the number of children dying from diarrhea remaining stable. Ironically, he
says the life-saving diarrhea program appears to have become a victim of its
He says interest in this disease has been steadily decreasing, following the
development of cost-effective interventions in the 1980s. And, this, he says
has dried up available research funds, which are going toward the development
of products for other diseases.
He says urgent action must be taken to redress this problem. Otherwise, poor
countries will not reach the Millennium Development Goal that aims to cut child
deaths by two-thirds by 2015.
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"Kids dying from diarrhea are obviously the poorest of the poor and the
most difficult to reach. In some parts of Africa, people with diarrhea die
because they are three, four, five hours away from this type of treatment. So,
it is clear that ... research on delivery is key to reach the Millennium
Development Goal ... If we want to reduce mortality by 2015, as this exercise
showed, we have to find ways of delivering this product to the people who need
The World Health Organization says $126-billion were spent on funding health
research in 2003. But, that money has not always been targeted at diseases that
affect the greatest number of people.
Listen to Health Report in Lao by clicking any audio file.
Translated by Buasawan Simmala