Reducing diarrhoea deaths in South Africa: costs and effects of scaling up essential interventions to prevent and treat diarrhoea in under-five children

BMC Public Health. 2015 Apr 17;15:394. doi: 10.1186/s12889-015-1689-2.


Background: Diarrhoea is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in South African children, accounting for approximately 20% of under-five deaths. Though progress has been made in scaling up multiple interventions to reduce diarrhoea in the last decade, challenges still remain. In this paper, we model the cost and impact of scaling up 13 interventions to prevent and treat childhood diarrhoea in South Africa.

Methods: Modelling was done using the Lives Saved Tool (LiST). Using 2014 as the baseline, intervention coverage was increased from 2015 until 2030. Three scale up scenarios were compared: by 2030, 1) coverage of all interventions increased by ten percentage points; 2) intervention coverage increased by 20 percentage points; 3) and intervention coverage increased to 99%.

Results: The model estimates 13 million diarrhoea cases at baseline. Scaling up intervention coverage averted between 3 million and 5.3 million diarrhoea cases. In 2030, diarrhoeal deaths are expected to reduce from an estimated 5,500 in 2014 to 2,800 in scenario one, 1,400 in scenario two and 100 in scenario three. The additional cost of implementing all 13 interventions will range from US$510 million (US$9 per capita) to US$960 million (US$18 per capita), of which the health system costs range between US$40 million (less than US$1 per capita) and US$170 million (US$3 per capita).

Conclusion: Scaling up 13 essential interventions could have a substantial impact on reducing diarrhoeal deaths in South African children, which would contribute toward reducing child mortality in the post-MDG era. Preventive measures are key and the government should focus on improving water, sanitation and hygiene. The investments required to achieve these results seem feasible considering current health expenditure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Mortality
  • Child, Preschool
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Diarrhea / economics*
  • Diarrhea / mortality*
  • Diarrhea / prevention & control
  • Global Health
  • Health Promotion / economics*
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Hygiene / economics
  • Morbidity
  • Sanitation / economics
  • Sanitation / methods
  • South Africa / epidemiology
  • Water Supply / economics