Child diarrhea deaths could be almost halved if already available interventions such as breastfeeding, hand washing with soap, and improved household water treatment were widely implemented.
Christa Fischer Walker from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA, and colleagues found that a complete package of interventions, including access to clean water and improved sanitation, would reduce child diarrhea deaths by up to 92 percent.
And these would only cost just over US 3.24 dollars per person-helping to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4 target of reducing deaths in children aged under 5 years by two thirds by 2015.
The authors used the LiST (Lives Saved Tool) statistical model to estimate the number of child lives that could potentially be saved by widely implementing seven prevention interventions and three treatment interventions in 68 countries that together account for 95 percent of child deaths.
Prevention interventions includes breastfeeding, vitamin A supplementation, hand washing with soap, improved sanitation, improved water source, better household water treatment, and rotavirus vaccination while treatment interventions involves oral rehydration solution, zinc supplementation, and antibiotics for dysentery.
They found that a do-able increase in the coverage of all interventions would reduce child deaths due to diarrhea by 78 percent by 2015 at a cost of US 0.80 dollars per capita.
However, if these countries were able to provide all of their citizens with the package of interventions, by 2015, diarrhea deaths could be reduced by 92 percent at a cost of 3.24 dollars per capita-averting nearly 5 million deaths.
The study was published in this week's PLoS Medicine.