Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria has described diarrhoea related deaths in Nigeria as unacceptable.
The society attributed rate of diarrhea and its related child deaths to lack of access to safe drinking water.
Dr Edwin Akpotor, Senior Programme Officer, PSN-PACFaH @ Scale Project, who said this on Monday in Abuja said this was discovered by the Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family Health (PSN-PACFaH) during a research.
Akpotor said access to safe water was a fundamental right of every citizen, explaining that safe water and proper hand washing prevents diarrhoea and save lives.
The expert said diarrhoea is one of the most common health complaints characterised by abnormally loose or watery stool, ranging from a mild, temporary condition to a potentially life-threatening one.
Akpotor explained that most cases of diarrhoea were caused by an infection in the gastrointestinal tract.
According to him, the 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) diarrhoea is responsible for over 14 per cent of about 900,000 annual under-five years of age death in the country.
He said “Diarrhoea kills more children in Nigeria than HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis combined. In spite of these unfriendly statistics, the attention given to diarrhoea prevention and management by the government and other stakeholders is so small compared to HIV/AIDS and other interventions. Globally, an estimated two billion cases of diarrhoea disease occur annually and 1.9 million children under the age of five die from the disease mostly in developing countries.’’
Akpotor recommended clean and safe drinking water, good sewage system, good sanitation systems, good hygiene practices, including hand washing with soap or ash after defecation, as preventive measures against the menace.
Other preventive measures, according to him, included hand washing with soap after cleaning up a child that has defecated, after disposing a child’s stool before preparing food, eating and breastfeeding.
“Malnourished children cannot fight off water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea, they are even more susceptible to diarrhoea episodes; scaling-up nutrition is also a sure way to win the fight against childhood diarrhoea,’’ the official said.
Akpotor urged government and key stakeholders to prioritise access to potable water as well as increase access to proven medications and services that could manage episodes of diarrhea in the country.
“Childhood diarrhea problem can be effectively addressed by ensuring concerted efforts by the government and partners to scale up access to safe water in the most vulnerable communities. There should be increased sanitation and awareness campaign by government on dangers of unclean water to the health and well-being of children and family. Evidence has shown that interventions from public health bodies to promote hand washing can cut diarrhoea rates by about one-third. There is need for increase availability of childhood diarrhoea treatment drugs ‘Zinc tablet; Low Osmolarity Oral Rehydrated Salt’ Co-packed across all levels of care. There should also be intensified advocacy targeted at improving healthcare seeking behaviour among parents and care givers, appropriate and timely referral to health facilities,’’ Akpotor said.