Fighting Diarrhoea | Western Cape Government


Fighting Diarrhoea

6 June 2006
Every year during the summer months there is a sharp increase in the number of babies and small children under 2 years who become very ill with diarrhoea and vomiting. The summer months of this year have seen an accelerated campaign from Western Cape health services to prevent the death or hospitalization of these children.

Diarrhoeal disease is directly associated with poor hygiene and sanitation. Incidences are particularly marked in the peri-urban Metropole where the population is increasing at an estimated rate of between 44 000 and 48 000 people settling in the area per year. This puts a huge burden on the existing housing and sanitation infrastructure.

"We are seeing more severe diarrhoea in children as a consequence of AIDS and the pressures of poverty. But the deaths of these babies can and must be prevented through increased efforts to improve hygiene and sanitation, through stepping up treatment of cases at primary health care level and through building the capacity of the child's carer to understand and manage the illness," said Pierre Uys, Western Cape Minister of Health for the Western Cape.

Diarhoea and vomiting cause dehydration through the loss of fluid from the body and severe dehydration can result in death. In very small babies this can take place in a matter of hours - in larger babies within a few days.

On Wednesday 7 June, the Khayelitsha Social Capital Project of the Western Cape Health Department, together with the Health Promotion Programme will hold a final mobilisation and thank you event for the 85 community health workers who have been working hard on the campaign all summer.

It is essential to prevent diarrhea before it starts by practicing good hygiene (regular hand-washing in particular) and it is important that those caring for children know what to do when the child becomes ill.

The Western Cape campaign has extensively promoted hand-washing and good hygiene in the most affected areas. However equal attention has been given to promoting and supporting the use of a simple home remedy to counter dehydration.

Known as the 'SSS", the recipe is given as a drink and consists of 1 litre of water, 8 teaspoons of sugar and half a teaspoon of salt. If used correctly it can save the child's life. The recipe has been widely taught, through public health facilities and in households by community health workers.

Before temporarily downscaling the campaign, community health workers will mobilize their energies over the next few weeks. They will visit households and daycare centers with a specially designed 1 litre plastic bottle with the 'SSS' recipe and a 5ml measuring spoon. These bottles, kindly donated by Nampak-Liquid, are designed to remind the householder of the correct recipe and to provide a convenient measure and container for the remedy.

Head of Department, Professor Craig Househam confirmed the commitment of the department to continue the fight against diarrhoea. The Department is currently evaluating the effectiveness of the 2005/6 campaign.

Issued by:
The Directorate Communications
Office of the Superintendent of Health, Western Cape
Department of Health
Faiza Steyn
Director: Communication
Tel: 021 483 3235

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