How Bangladesh vanquished diarrhoea

Mar 22, 2018

IN THE 27 years since he became headmaster of a school in Trishal, in northern Bangladesh, Mohamed Iqbal Baher has noticed some changes in his pupils. Although boys and girls are often absent because they are helping their parents in the fields, they miss fewer lessons because of illness. Mr Baher does not recall an outbreak of cholera in the past ten years. And, although he cannot be sure, he thinks that pupils are taller than they used to be.

If so, it is probably because they were healthier infants. In 1993-94, 14% of Bangladeshi babies aged between 6 and 11 months had suffered an attack of diarrhoea in the previous two weeks, according to their parents, who were responding to a household survey. That is an important stage in a child’s development, but also a period of great vulnerability to stomach bugs, as babies are weaned. By 2004 the proportion of stricken babies had fallen to 12%, and in 2014 it had dropped below 7%. Stunting—being extremely short for one’s age—has declined roughly in...

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