It is a tragedy that diarrheal diseases are not given as much importance as they should be. For many of us, the word diarrhea means just a momentary deficiency of water. Understanding the consequences of diarrheal diseases and the impact they have, especially on children worldwide is not something many of us have time for. It is about time ignorance is shattered! In this discussion, we are going to discuss exactly how dangerous diarrheal diseases are. Our focus of attention would be on Pakistan, a country that suffers from plight in healthcare facilities to such an extent that even management and treatment of diarrhea is a major challenge. Read on to know more about the impact of diarrheal diseases in Pakistan.
Let us start with the basics, shall we? Diarrhea is defined as a condition in which three or more loose liquid stools are passed per day. It is pertinent to mention here that the frequent passing of formed stools is not deemed as a condition of diarrhea. Talking about diarrhea is important because it is the leading cause of malnutrition in children under five years of age worldwide. Clinically, diarrhea is classified into three subcategories. These are:
- Acute Watery Diarrhea: This type of diarrhea can last for several hours.
- Acute Bloody Diarrhea: This type of diarrhea is also known by the term dysentery.
- Persistent Diarrhea: This type of diarrhea can last for more than 14 days.
Diarrheal Diseases in Numbers
Let us roll out the number game in this section. Figures are more believable than facts these days anyways! According to World Health Organization, almost 800 million people lack access to clean water worldwide. Further, almost 1/3rd population of the world doesn’t have an access to proper sanitation facilities. And that is where the problem lies! Lack of access to both of these basic amenities of life is one of the leading causes of diarrhea. All that talk about diarrhea due to infection, well there you have it! The WHO estimates that every year, more than 525000 children under the age of five fall prey to diarrhea. Almost 1.7 billion cases of childhood diarrheal diseases are reported every year[i]. The numbers are horrifying and that is putting things mildly!
Diarrheal Diseases and Pakistan
We now turn our attention to Pakistan which was among the top five countries reporting most deaths because of diarrhea in the year 2010[ii]. The fact that Pakistan is grouped with those countries where the sanitation situation is of the poorest quality doesn’t help the country’s case in the fight against mortality due to diarrhea. What is even more depressing is the fact that this situation can be averted by practicing some very basic hygiene practices, but is not. For example, drinking only boiled water is one of the ways to lower the risk of diarrhea outbreaks in areas where the sanitation situation is not so great.
Dehydration: A Major Threat
During diarrhea, our body’s electrolytic balance is severely compromised. We are talking about a situation in which valuable electrolytes like sodium, chloride, and potassium are lost from our bodies rapidly. It is pertinent to mention here that in addition to loss via liquid stool, water and electrolytes are lost via vomiting, sweating, and breathing as well. A diarrhea patient is said to be dehydrated when these electrolytes are not replaced. Just like there are three categories of diarrheal diseases, there are three degrees of dehydration as well. These are severe, some and none. Some of the symptoms of severe dehydration include sunken eyes and blackish skin.
Causes of Diarrheal Diseases
Infection is deemed as the only cause of diarrheal diseases popularly. However, there are other causative factors at play as well. We talk about these factors in this section. Malnutrition is one of the key reasons that render a child vulnerable to diarrhea. There exists a direct relationship between diarrhea and malnutrition. A similar relationship exists between diarrhea-contaminated water as well. In rural areas of countries like Pakistan, drinking water is often contaminated with human or animal feces. The microorganisms found in these feces are one of the leading reasons for diarrhea. Among the common etiological agents associated with diarrhea, Rotavirus and E. coli species are the most prevalent microbes in low-income countries like Pakistan.
Rehydration using ORS i.e. oral rehydration salts is the most important step in recovery after a diarrheal episode. To make up for the lost nutrients, using nutrient supplements, zinc supplements, and supplementing your diet with nutritious foods full of vitamins is super recommended as well. Following the golden rule of prevention is better than treatment, adopting measures that will eliminate the risk of diarrhea is also important. Of course, areas that are deprived of basic health and hygiene amenities have a lot harder time fighting diarrheal outbreaks. Free medical camps conducted by organizations like Transparent Hands are a real-life saver in such a situation.
Transparent Hands is the largest technological platform for crowdfunding in the healthcare sector of Pakistan. It offers a complete range of free healthcare services including medical and surgical treatments, medical camps, and telehealth facilities to the underprivileged community of Pakistan. The platform provides visibility to underprivileged patients and builds a personal and trusted bond between patients and donors while ensuring complete transparency. It also sets up free medical camps in the rural areas of Pakistan in which, free medical consultation, free medicines, and free diagnostic tests are provided to deserving patients. Donors from all over the world can use the Transparent Hands crowdfunding web portal and donate through 100% secure payment modes. They could select any patient, fund the treatment, and receive regular feedback and updates until the patient has recovered completely.
That would be all from this discussion. We hope that you learned something if not everything new from this discussion about diarrheal diseases and their impact in low-income countries like Pakistan. We wish we could go on a bit more, but the limitations of time and space force us to conclude this debate here. With a kind reminder of boiling water before you drink it, we bid you farewell from this discussion!