‘Who is in the garden?’
‘A little fine girl.’
‘Can I come and see her?’
‘No, no, no, no.’
Remember this nursery rhyme? Diarrhoea is a bully, so in spite of the refusal, it would usually bulldoze and forcefully gain access and play would cease and the fun and excitement in the garden would disappear. Maybe temporarily but permanently at times.
Diarrhoea is a yearly visitor in most Nigerian homes often between January and February and it leaves sorrow and tears in its wake. It is defined by the World health organisation (WHO) as passage of three or more loose or liquid stools per day.
Diarrhoea is both preventable and treatable but remains, sadly, the second leading cause of death in children under five years of age.
The diarrhoea prevalence rate in Nigeria is 18.8 percent which is worse than the sub-Sahara Africa average of 16 percent.
In Nigeria, diarrhoea accounts for an estimated 150,000 deaths every year mainly amongst children under five.
The loss, according to UNICEF, is the equivalent of the number of people that would die if a big passenger aircraft were to crash every day. Unfortunately while such volume of air crash would elicit global panic, hysteria and mass and urgent action, the children dying from diarrhoea are just ‘statistical figures’.
Diarrhoea is usually a symptom of an infection in the gastro- intestinal tract. The infection can be as a result of bacterial, viral or parasitic organisms and are commonly exacerbated by poor hygiene, poor water supply and poor disposal of faeces.
The most severe threat posed by diarrhoea is dehydration. During a diarrhoeal episode, water and electrolytes (sodium, chloride, potassium and bicarbonate) are lost and dehydration occurs when these losses are not adequately, effectively and quickly replaced.
There are home remedies that make highly effective oral rehydration solutions and are suitable drinks to prevent a child with diarrhoea from becoming dehydrated.
7They include salt -sugar solution which is made from a solution of clean water, sugar and salt. Others are green coconut water and freshly squeezed orange juice. One of these drinks should be given to the child every time a watery stool is passed. There is no place for the use of raw pap or half –done one.
There is also no place for use of salt added into any of the carbonated drinks like Sprite or Seven-up. The ensuing solution would create more harm than good. These drinks are not intended for use by their manufacturers as oral rehydration solutions.
Measures advocated to prevent diarrhoea include:
• Provision of safe drinking-water;
• Proper disposal of stool/faeces
• Encouraging hand washing .
• Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life;
• Good personal and food hygiene; because the commonest viral cause of diarrhoea is Rotavirus, appropriate immunisation against it is quite helpful as a preventive measure.
Finally, giving Zinc supplement is essential as it reduces the duration of a diarrhoea episode by 25% and is associated with a 30% reduction in stool volume.
Let’s keep little children playing, say no to diarrhoea.