Ground Report | New Delhi: 1.2 million children die a year; The World Health Organization (WHO) establishes in its 2020 report that of the almost 1.2 million child deaths globally, at least 300,000 corresponded to children under five who died from diarrhea, 10,000 of them in Latin America.
1.2 million children die a year
These figures place diarrhea -motivated by lack of access to safe water and sanitation, overcrowding, and lack of hygiene- as the third leading cause of infant death worldwide, after complications in childbirth and pneumonia.
During an episode of diarrhea, an infection in the digestive tract, caused by a virus, bacteria, or parasite, children lose water, electrolytes and their intestinal flora is altered, and, if not treated properly, they can develop pictures severe dehydration. “In low-income countries, infants have an average of three episodes of diarrhea a year and, with each one, their malnutrition worsens. In fact, as a result of severe diarrhea, a child can lose consciousness and even die ”, explains Álvaro Montenegro, medical manager of Sanofi Consumer Healthcare.
In countries like Mexico, problems of access to safe water are related to more than one million cases of acute diarrheal diseases and 596 deaths in children under five years of age in 2019.
According to Dr. Sarbelio Moreno Espinosa, a prominent Mexican pediatric infectious disease specialist, there are various causes that can cause diarrhea, the most common being fecal-oral contact. ” Each gram of fecal matter contains up to a trillion germs which can enter the body when contaminated objects are touched and then their hands are placed in their mouths, ” he said.
drinking water a human right
However, since the pandemic began, people have adapted ideal hygiene habits such as constant hand washing, which in Mexico, for example, has represented a decrease of up to 54.4% in cases of diarrhea, going from 1,049,536 in 2019 to 478,099 cases in 2020
“Proper handwashing with soap and water has contributed as a simple, efficient and low-cost way to prevent diarrhea,” says Dr. Moreno, who emphasizes the need to improve access to clean water in the most vulnerable communities. In addition, “as doctors it is important to promote the care of the microbiota and establish limits when prescribing antibiotics, as it can cause counterproductive effects if you do not have a healthy diet or do not consume probiotics .”
Although, since 2010, the United Nations General Assembly has recognized access to drinking water as a human right, at present, 26% of people in Latin America do not have access to drinking water. To guarantee this right, the UN calls for coordinated work and partnerships between governments and the private sector to achieve the goal of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, clean water and sanitation for all by 2030.