Is drought associated with an increased risk of diarrhea?

Things got worse in households that had to travel long distances for water, or in households that lacked water and soap for hand washing. However, even proper hygiene could not compensate for the risk of diarrhea associated with drought.

“Especially in a climate with more droughts in the future, the impact on the risk of drought cannot be completely ruled out,” said Dr. Kai Chen of the Department of Epidemiology (Environmental Health) at the Graduate School of Public Health. And a senior author of the study. “We need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”


This study was the largest in history to investigate the effects of long-term drought on the risk of diarrhea in children living in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). It was also the first of its kind to adopt a new drought response that takes into account both water supply and demand.

Diarrhea can result from exposure to contaminated food or water, animal feces, or other infected individuals. The relationship between rainfall and diarrhea has been extensively studied, but there is little evidence of drought and diarrhea.

The most endangered infant

To better understand the relationship between drought and diarrhea, the author examined international health surveys and climate data. Droughts were measured at a resolution of 10 square kilometers using a standardized metric called the Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI).

Data on recent diarrhea attacks were collected between 1990 and 2019 by the Demographics and Health Survey, a collaborative study between USAID and dozens of countries around the world. The study collected information on more than 1.3 million children under the age of five living in 51 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

In all countries surveyed, 14.4% of children experienced diarrhea in the last two weeks. The risk was highest in children 6-23 months.

In the most affected country, Niger, about 36.4% of children have recently become ill. Other seriously affected countries include Bolivia, Liberia, the Central African Republic, Burundi, Malawi and Haiti, with one in five children recently affected.

Living for 6 months in a drought increased the risk of diarrhea by 5% if the drought was mild and 8% if the drought was severe. Good water, such as proper soap and water, access to sanitary and sanitary (WASH) facilities provided a low to moderate level of protection from the risk of diarrhea.

Similarly, children in households who took a long time to collect water (more than 30 minutes) or who did not have access to hand-washing soap and water were at higher risk.

Deadly victim of diarrhea

Children who survive diarrheal illness suffer from growth and developmental disorders and may be more susceptible to chronic illness. But many others cannot survive.

These statistics can be exacerbated as climate change exacerbates the drought and is expected to last longer.

Droughts can increase the concentration of dangerous bacteria and viruses in water sources. Also, if there is a shortage of water, drinking water is prioritized over using it for personal hygiene. For many people at LMIC, access to water can take hours of travel.

Prevention of diarrhea requires simple measures such as access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

However, the vicious victims of drought-related diarrhea cannot be completely washed away.

“Especially in these low resource communities, international cooperation efforts are needed to improve the WASH infrastructure. For these children, it will definitely help,” said Yale University Climate Change and Health Center Research Responsibility. Chen, who serves as a person, said. Yale School of Public Health. “But hand washing is not enough to protect you. We need to address the root causes of climate change.”

Source: Eurekalert

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