Report: Diarrhea biggest killer of African children

Posted Jul 23, 2010 by Chancy Namadzunda
According to Water Aid, an international non-governmental group, the biggest killer of children under five in Africa is diarrhea and it's in danger of being overlooked at this week’s African Union summit in Uganda.
 New figures published in the Lancet medical journal last month revealed that diarrhea is now the biggest killer of under-fives in Africa. Previous figures had pneumonia as causing the largest number of deaths.
“Every day on the continent 2,000 children die from diarrhea – deaths that are preventable through access to sanitation, hygiene education and clean water.  Simply using a safe toilet can reduce the incidence of diarrhea by 40%, while a toilet together with safe water and hygiene can reduce the disease by 90 percent,” reads part of the statement.
This week’s African Union summit in Kampala is set to address the maternal, newborn and child health crisis but, we fear that the discussions could undermine efforts to tackle this deadly crisis if they fail to address access to sanitation.  
“We think that if African leaders are serious about tackling child deaths across our continent, they must tackle diarrhea, the biggest killer of our children,” says the statement
According to Action Aid study, a staggering 80 percent of African countries are currently off-track for meeting the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) sanitation target. The simple and cost-effective programmes that deliver sanitation and hygiene not only cut diarrhoeal rates but also significantly reduces other leading causes of child deaths such as under-nutrition and pneumonia. 
“We would like to bring to the attention of our leaders at the meeting in Uganda, that only if improved access to sanitation is addressed will we see any kind of progress on the fourth MDG to reduce child mortality by two-thirds. We therefore call on the Heads of States to ensure that sanitation, safe water and hygiene are integrated within their child and maternal health strategies and that these are financed accordingly.  
“As the famous Nigerian singer Femi Kuti says: ‘If I had to give a message to African leaders, I would say, don’t they love their people?  And if they did care and truly loved their people, then it is their ultimate duty to provide clean water for the people of Africa,’ We too implore our dear African leaders not to drop the promises they made on sanitation and water in the eThekwini and Sharm el Sheik Declarations in 2008,” reads part of the statement.  
Water Aid's recommendations for the 2010 African Union summit include: African Heads of State should ensure that sanitation and water are an integral part of national health strategies and are adequately resourced, African Heads of State should ensure that at least 0.5 percent of their respective GDPs are allocated to sanitation, as committed to in the eThekwini Declaration on Sanitation (2008).
“African Ministers should ensure that monitoring of progress on maternal, newborn and child health includes the MDG 7 targets on sanitation and water, alongside MDGs 4 and 5 on child and maternal mortality.
The AU summit declaration should appoint a Special Rapporteur on sanitation and water to report to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), building on the work of the UN Independent Expert on human rights’ obligations related to access to sanitation and water,” says the press release.