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Associations between long-term drought and diarrhea among children under five in low- and middle-income countries.

Abstract

Climate change is projected to intensify drought conditions, which may increase the risk of diarrheal diseases in children. We constructed log-binomial generalized linear mixed models to examine the association between diarrhea risk, ascertained from global-scale nationally representative Demographic and Health Surveys, and drought, represented by the standardized precipitation evapotranspiration index, among children under five in 51 low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Exposure to 6-month mild or severe drought was associated with an increased diarrhea risk of 5% (95% confidence interval 3-7%) or 8% (5-11%), respectively. The association was stronger among children living in a household that needed longer time to collect water or had no access to water or soap/detergent for handwashing. The association for 24-month drought was strong in dry zones but weak or null in tropical or temperate zones, whereas that for 6-month drought was only observed in tropical or temperate zones. In this work we quantify the associations between exposure to long-term drought and elevated diarrhea risk among children under five in LMICs and suggest that the risk could be reduced through improved water, sanitation, and hygiene practices, made more urgent by the likely increase in drought due to climate change.

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