AbM-WC: Diarrhea kills increasing number of under 5’s

27 03 2009

Brenda Nkuna
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Source: West Cape News

The number of children under five dying of or being admitted to Western Cape hospitals for diarrhea increased for the last period in which figures are available, says the Western Cape Health Department.

Diarrhea claimed the lives of 149 children under five years old over the 2007/2008 period. This was out of 7,790 admissions to hospitals, said provincial health spokesperson Faiza Steyn.
This comes as this summer’s gastroenteritis season – which peaks in the hot months between October and March – draws to a close. Cases increase over this period because of an increase in flies and unsanitary conditions, especially in areas where there are a lack of services.

Although not providing figures for the current year, Steyn said in the year from April 2007 to March 2008 the number of cases were larger than in previous years and “many more children” required admission for re-hydration.

However, although figures had not yet been compiled, this increase did “not necessary” apply to the 2008/2009 year, she said.

Gastroenteritis, caused by viruses, bacteria and parasites, results in mild to severe diarrhea and can cause life-threatening dehydration in young children.
Steyn blamed the increase on a higher birth rate and an increase in migration.

She said hot spot areas included Delft, Gugulethu, Kraaifontein and Khayelitsha.

In the informal settlement of QQ section in Khayelitsha, parents complain that they battle to keep their children healthy due to a lack of services.

Veliswa Sidumo, 25, an unemployed mother of a two-year-old girl, said her child had developed a bad rash and she had no choice but to keep her in her shack until her condition improved.

She said she used a variety of household cleaning products to kill germs, but this did not help when her daughter played in sand outside where she was exposed to flies, human faeces and dirty water.

She said there were no toilets in her area. People used buckets as toilets and often spilt the contents outside her shack.

Another resident, Nosibabalo Dyasi, 25, said she was concerned about the number of children playing at a dump site near her shack, because they did not wash their hands.

She said due to a lack of clean water, people thought that washing hands was a waste of water.

Dyasi, an unemployed mother of a four-year-old girl, said parents were aware of existing diseases and how to prevent them, but due to unemployment they were unable to afford cleaning products.

“It’s hard to raise children here. Their lives are in danger, but where can they go?” she asked.

Steyn said sick children should be taken to a clinic “immediately” and parents should tell staff if a child had diarrhea.

She said parents should continue feeding their child while sick. But they should make sure bottles and teats were clean.

They should wash hands after changing nappies, before preparing food and before feeding, she said. — West Cape News

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