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Severe flooding linked to increased diarrhea risk in children

October 02, 2023

Weather patterns driven by climate change are causing more severe flooding around the globe increasing the risk of potentially life-threatening diarrhea among children under the age of five, particularly among those living in low- and middle-income countries, according to a new study by researchers at the Yale School of Public Health.

In an analysis of cross-sectional data from 43 low- and middle-income countries, researchers found that severe flooding, flooding that lasted more than two weeks, and flooding following periods of drought were associated with an increased risk of diarrhea among younger children

The findings are based on an analysis of historical flooding events between 2009 and 2019 as recorded by the Dartmouth Flood Observatory. The flooding data was then integrated with individual diarrhea prevalence surveys gathered by the Demographic and Health Surveys Program and analyzed. The findings are novel in their focus on the long-term and delayed effects of localized flooding, the researchers said. Previous studies have focused only on individual flooding events and their impact during shorter time periods.

Diarrhea is among the leading causes of death among children under the age of 5. Many of those deaths occur in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

The researchers recommend more protective measures be enacted to protect children from the compound effects of severe flooding and drought, which are expected to increase in frequency and duration because of global climate change.

Pin Wang, Ernest Asare, Virginia Pitzer, Robert Dubrow, Kai Chen, “Floods and Diarrhea Risk in Young Children in Low- and Middle-Income Countries”, JAMA Pediatrics, October 2, 2023.

Submitted by Colin Poitras on September 30, 2023