Updated 13 July 2015

Drop in child diarrhoea deaths thanks to Cape Town City Health measures

City Health is considering ways to further reduce the number of diarrhoea-related child fatalities after reporting a more than 50% reduction in the number of deaths year on year.

The City of Cape Town’s Health Directorate is heartened by the reduction in the number and severity of diarrhoea cases and fatalities in young children.

Diarrhoea can be fatal

The period between November and May is generally considered "diarrhoea season" due to an increase in the number of cases reported as a result of the warmer weather conditions. Children under five are generally considered most at risk from diarrhoea which can be fatal if it occurs with severe dehydration.

Read: Easy ways to keep kids hydrated

During the 2014/15 season, 25,602 diarrhoea cases were recorded at public healthcare facilities across the city. Of these, 4,9% presented with moderate dehydration and 1,7% with severe dehydration.

More than 50% of all cases were recorded between February and April, generally considered the peak period. A total of 27 diarrhoea deaths in children under five years of age were reported between November 2014 and May 2015.

Below is a breakdown of comparative statistics:

"This is a very different picture from the situation we faced five years ago when 170 fatalities were recorded. It bears testament to the additional measures put in place and amended as and where required to further decrease the number of child fatalities as a result of this preventable disease.

"Some of the measures include fast-tracking diarrhoea cases that present at our clinics and, just as critically, ongoing education and awareness about the signs and symptoms of diarrhoea, food safety, personal hygiene like hand-washing, and the importance of getting children vaccinated.

A number of interventions

"Despite the positive figures, we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. Diarrhoea can be prevented and does not have to result in death and so we still have a lot of work ahead of us," said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Health, Councillor Siyabulela Mamkeli.

City Health prioritises a number of interventions to protect children from diarrhoea, including a campaign to increase the number of children who are exclusively breastfed at 14 weeks of age. Currently, the reported percentage in Cape Town is extremely low at 19%.

"Breast milk is not only the best nutritional option, but has the added advantage of providing the babies with their mothers’ antibodies and protecting them from a range of medical conditions in the first months of life.

Read: Breast milk reduces infections

"We also want to increase the number of vaccinations and the vitamin A coverage in children under five. Door-to-door visits are becoming the City’s trademark where we spread messages around personal hygiene, hand-washing and food safety through our environmental health interventions.

"Ultimately, parents also need to play their part. Learn how to prevent diarrhoea; know the symptoms; and seek help if you suspect your child may have diarrhoea. It is always better to be safe than sorry," added Councillor Mamkeli.

Media enquiries: Councillor Siyabulela Mamkeli, Mayoral Committee Member for Health, City of Cape Town, Tel: 021 444 0244 or Cell: 078 159 1251, E-mail: (please always copy
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