Childhood diarrhoea has social consequences like: retarded growth, missed learning opportunity, weakened nutritional status, load on health delivery systems and budgets, disincentive to limiting family size, lowered quality of life and premature loss of young lives. Diarrhoea by itself is not fatal, but the dehydration represents a loss of essential water and salts from the body.
Each year an estimated 1,500 million episodes of food-borne diarrhoea occur worldwide among children under the age of 5. As a result 4 to 5 million die. As of 1997, this figure had dropped to 2.2 million. In the first five years of life, as many as 15 out of every 1,000 children die from diarrhoea caused by drinking polluted water. On average every child under five suffers from 2-3 episodes of diarrhoea per year. Repeated diarrhoea attacks are one of the main causes of malnutrition and diarrhoea cases still account for 30%, or more, of paediatric hospitalization in many areas of the world. One out of every 20 children born into the developing world dies from acute diarrhoea before reaching the age of five.