by AUDrey | February 25, 2012

In my last couple columns, I feel I’ve strayed a lot from the issue of clean water. I want to cover as many issues as possible, because all global health issues are important and there are a lot more issues than just clean water. Yet, somehow, it seems, I’ve come back to water.

Well, not water exactly, but water related disease. Diarrhea specifically.

Diarrhea is a public health problem that is rarely mentioned due to its lack of glamour. Who wants to talk about diarrhea when AIDS and obesity are the “current” public health issues? And we don’t talk about diarrhea here, because in the U.S., diarrhea is not a death sentence by any means, but in developing countries, diarrhea can mean death is imminent. UNICEF identified diarrhea as the most important public health problem directly related to water and sanitation.

It is caused by a variety of microorganisms including viruses, bacteria and protozoans and causes a person to lose both water and electrolytes which leads to dehydration and, in some cases, to death.

About 4 billion cases of diarrhea per year cause 2.2 million deaths. And most of these deaths are in children under age five. Diarrhea due to infection is widespread throughout the developing world. In Southeast Asia and Africa, diarrhea is responsible for as much as 8.5% and 7.7% of all deaths respectively. Cholera and dysentery are the diseases that generally lead to life-threatening diarrheal illness.

Simply washing hands with soap and water can cut diarrheal deaths by one-third! In order to prevent the rest of these diarrheal deaths, adequate sanitation facilities must be developed- and this is the hardest part. In order to develop sanitation facilities, governmental changes must be made. To prevent a disease at the molecular level, the whole economic, social, and political system must make alterations.

Diarrheal illness causes 4% of ALL deaths worldwide. These are preventable deaths. Make a difference and do something about water related diseases, even diarrhea.

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