Diarrhoeal Diseases Campaign Success
90% reduction in in-hospital deaths of children in 2011 compared to 2010.
The Western Cape Department of Health has recorded a remarkable decrease in diarrhoeal disease hospital deaths in children under 5 years old in the Metro. Compared to last season which reported 37 in-hospital deaths in Metro Hospitals, there have been only 4 during the same period (Jan to March) of this year. Diarrhoea is prevalent during summer months - with a peak season between February to March. Children under the age of 5 years are most severely affected and the most common routes of infection are through food and water contamination.
This year's success in reducing hospital diarrhoeal deaths in children is due in large to strategies and interventions introduced by the Department which includes:
- Monitoring of all clinics for serious diarrhoea cases.
- The follow-up of each and every severe case or death by environmental health officers to identify the problems and prevent repeat illnesses - environmental health officers visit the families in their homes to investigate possible environmental factors contributing to the child's illness such as waste disposal, personal hygiene and access to water for hand-washing.
- Education of parents and communities on prevention of diarrhoea in children and proper home management in case of diarrhoeal illness.
Without a doubt the introduction of the rotarix vaccine has also helped to decrease the numbers of children being seen with serious diarrhoeal illnesses. This vaccine was introduced at the end of the 2009/10 season in the Western Cape for all children under 5 years.
Another reason for the decline of diarrhoeal cases can be attributed to the increased success of the ORT (Oral Rehydration Treatment) corners at the health facilities. These have been highlighted this season as a good way of improving parent's ability to manage diarrhoea fluid therapy at home. They are simple areas of the emergency centre where children who are somewhat dehydrated or are not able to drink enough fluids are given a trial of oral rehydration solution. This is done by using a 'little and often' approach with a health worker to monitor whether adequate fluid is being taken and the correct techniques are being used by the parent. This is also an ideal place to teach key messages about how to make home Oral Rehydration Solutions, which is also called the SSS solution (sugar, salt solution) and diarrhoea management. The SSS solution is a mixture of 8 teaspoons of sugar and half a teaspoon of salt in a 1 litre bottle of clean water.
"In terms of childhood deaths, we are only certain of in-hospital deaths at this point as there are deaths that occur in communities that are only recorded once there is a death certificate issued by Home Affairs. There is still a lot of work to be done, but we are optimistic about the progress made thus far in reducing childhood deaths due to diarrhoeal disease", says Mr Theuns Botha, Minister of Health in the Western Cape.
Ms Faiza Steyn
Director of Communications
Office of the Head of Health
Provincial Government of the Western Cape
Tel: 021 483 3235
Cell: 082 801 6960
Fax: 021 483 6169