Nepal’s Slum Children At High Risk Of Diarrhea

Children living in Nepal’s slums face a high risk of diarrhea, but exclusive breastfeeding infants under six months could help alleviate the situation.

AsianScientist (Jun. 28, 2017) – Diarrhea is one of the leading causes of child mortality in developing countries. Two million children die of diarrhea in the world every year. Research published recently in the Journal of Lumbini Medical College has found that children living in the slums of Nepal’s small hill towns are at significant risk of diarrhea.

The study revealed that of the 450 children under five years of age living in the slums of the Tansen municipality in the Palpa district (250 kilometres west of Nepal’s capital Kathmandu), 40 percent were found to have suffered from diarrhea in the previous three months.

The risk of diarrhea was much less for children who had been exclusively breast-fed for six months, said lead author, Dr. Balakrishna Kalakheti, Associate Professor at Department of Paediatrics at Lumbini Medical College Teaching Hospital, Nepal. Of the 181 children who had diarrhea, 174 had not been breast-fed exclusively for more than six months while only seven had been breast-fed exclusively.

Nutrition, the source and treatment of drinking water, hand washing practice and family income were other variables related to diarrhea in the slums. Interestingly, the research found that children drinking natural-source spring water had a lower risk of diarrhea than children drinking water from a Government-supplied source.

According to Kalakheti, nutrition had a strong impact on vulnerability to diarrhea.

“At present, the children are trapped in a cycle of malnutrition and diarrhea,” he explained. “Children in the slums suffer from malnutrition. When they suffer from malnutrition their immunity reduces and they become prone to diarrhea. When they suffer from diarrhea, food absorption is affected and they cannot absorb nutrition well,” Kalakheti said.

Kalakheti added that the focus should be shifted from a curative approach to a preventive approach and that more awareness-raising programmes should be organized to inform the mothers about the importance of nutrition and sanitation.

“Ironically, because the mothers have to go for work, they cannot spare time to learn more about causes of diarrhea and methods to reduce it,” he said.

The article can be found at: Kalakheti et al. (2016) Risk Factors of Diarrhea in Children Under Five Years in Urban Slums: An Epidemiological Study.


Source: International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications; Photo: Pixabay.
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