Dehydration from diarrhoea is one of the major causes of death in young children worldwide. The prevalence of diarrhoea overall in Malawi is estimated at 17.5%, and at 38% in children aged 6-12 months. The 2010 MDHS shows a higher percentage of reported cases in communities without access to improved drinking water and sanitation. Recent data shows that in 60% of cases, treatment was sought from a formal health provider and 24.2% of children under six months reportedly did not receive any treatment at all. Burden of Disease BoD11 assessment calculates that the number of episodes of acute diarrhoea in children under five years of age is over 13 million per year, and yet the health service treated only 324,000 in 2010. The major risk factors include poor sanitation, poor access to safe water and health services; lack of knowledge on the benefits of ORS and zinc and the dangers of dehydration; poor hygiene practices including lack of resource for fuel to boil water to drink and lack of construction of low cost excreta disposal.
Current health promotion emphasis/messaging:
- Protect food: through covering food and reheating before eating, washing hands with soap or ash before eating, after using the toilet and after changing baby’s nappies
- Drink safe water: making water safe by boiling or treating with chlorine
- Use of pit latrine and toilet to avoid open defecation.