Poverty vital in spreading water-borne diseases: Expert

Kochi, Oct. 30: Poverty and malnutrition are among the major causes for a water-borne disease and diarrhoea strikes where there is compromise on sanitation and hygiene and water becomes contaminated, a leading health expert and microbiologist said here today.


“Compared to people belonging to higher socio-economic group, poor people do not have access to clean water and nutrition. Due to poverty in our neighbouring countries, diarrhoea rules the roost and the endemicity of diarrhoeal disease is higher in certain places,” said Dr. G. Balakrish Nair, Acting Regional Adviser at the Communicable Diseases Department of the Regional Office of World Health Organisation (WHO) for South-East Asia, New Delhi.


Speaking on the sidelines of the three-day 14thAsian Conference on Diarrhoeal Disease and Nutrition (ASCODD) which began here on Monday, he stressed that poverty is a big issue in the fight against diarrhoeal diseases.


“In Kerala, the high literacy factor enables proportional decline in the incidence of diarrhoea. Basically, where sanitation and hygiene is compromised and water is contaminated, there is every chance of spreading of diarrhoea. The transmission is either person to person, drinking water to person or contaminated food to person,” Dr. Nair explained.   


Commenting on the recent controversies regarding vaccines, the WHO official said, “I have been a scientist for the last 40 years. Vaccines undergo very well conducted scientific trials in many parts of the world. The rapidly coming up diarrhoea vaccine is the rotavirus vaccine, and with the help of it we hope to bring down the cases of diarrhoea.”


An oral vaccine for cholera has been proven after trials across the world, he added.


About the ASCODD, Dr Nair said it exposes the latest of sciences and results to the people of myriad calibre. “It’s a dissemination of knowledge,” he observed.


According to him, the outcome of the conference is basic capacity building. As a noted scientist, who started working on diarrhoea in 1981, Dr. Nair hoped that that the conference would inform and create awareness among the people who have less access to new information.


The conference, being held from October 30 to November 1 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Kochi, has been organised by the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology, a National institute under the Department of Biotechnology, Govt. of India in association with International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr, b); Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI), Faridabad; the INCLEN Trust International (INCLEN INT) and the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (NICED), Kolkata.


The theme of the conference is “Saving lives: innovations and solutions for diarrhoeal diseases, enteric fever and malnutrition,” which is majorly supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.


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