Bob Ewing—How far does the affects of hunger stretch; what are the conditions or diseases associated with a poor diet, malnutrition or starvation? First, let us take a closer look at a condition we have some familiarity with, diarrhea.
Diarrhea, not a word, we usually hear in daily conversation; however, many of us have experienced it. Perhaps, our frequent, urgent dashes to the nearest bathroom were the result of too much beer and hot wings or pizza the night before, possibly, the flu is flushing our system. For most of us in North America, diarrhea is a condition that will pass within a day or two; elsewhere diarrhea takes on a more sinister nature.
According to Medilexicon’s medical dictionary, diarrhea is “An abnormally frequent discharge of semisolid or fluid fecal matter from the bowel.” Dehydration often accompanies diarrhea, especially if drinkable water is not near by or we, for whatever reason, do not consume enough to replace what we have loss.
Severe diarrhea may be life-threatening; young children and people who are malnourished or have impaired immunity are at the greatest risk.
The World Health Organization states: “Diarrhoea is one of the leading causes of death among children under five globally. More than one in ten child deaths – about 800 000 each year – is due to diarrhoea. Today, only 44% of children with diarrhoea in low-income countries receive the recommended treatment, and limited trend data suggest that there has been little progress since 2000.”
A study published , May 2011, in the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal found: “An average of 369 diarrhea-associated deaths/year (3320 total deaths) occurred among US children 1 to 59 months of age during 1992-1998 and 2005-2006. The diarrhea-associated death rate increased 40% between the first 3 and last 2 years of the study period, from an average of 1.6 deaths per 100,000 to 2.3 deaths per 100,000.”
Malnutrition and diarrhea are linked because; for example, when a child is malnourished he or she is more susceptible to diarrhea, causing more frequent and more severe diarrheal episodes.
To complicate the situation further, when a child suffers a bout of diarrhea, the illness saps nutrients that young bodies desperately need. This becomes a vicious cycle that, unless, broken, often leads to death.
Sanitation and the state of the local water supply play a major role in this cycle, the next article will examine why and begin a look at what can be done and is being done to provide clean drinking water, where it is needed, around the world.