The magnitude of the global problem of diarrhoeal disease: a ten-year update

Bull World Health Organ. 1992;70(6):705-14.


In order to update global estimates of diarrhoeal morbidity and mortality in developing countries, we carried out a review of articles published from 1980 to the present and calculated median estimates for the incidence of diarrhoea and diarrhoeal mortality among under-5-year-olds. The incidence of diarrhoea obtained (2.6 episodes per child per year) was virtually the same as that estimated by Snyder & Merson in 1982, while the global mortality estimate was lower (3.3 million deaths per year; range, 1.5-5.1 million). The mortality estimate is based on a small number of active surveillance and prospective studies, and thus associated with a large degree of uncertainty, reflecting the weakness of the global database. However, many surveys reporting reductions in mortality in several locations are consistent with a decreased estimate for mortality. More accurate execution of WHO survey methods, including population-based sampling in representative locations, and repeat surveys every 5 years, are needed to monitor the progress of diarrhoeal disease control programmes and trends in diarrhoeal morbidity and mortality over time.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Developing Countries*
  • Diarrhea, Infantile / epidemiology*
  • Diarrhea, Infantile / mortality
  • Diarrhea, Infantile / prevention & control
  • Epidemiologic Methods*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Sampling Studies