What Works in Fighting Diarrheal Diseases in Developing Countries? A Critical Review

46 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2007 Last revised: 28 Jun 2010

See all articles by Alix Peterson Zwane

Alix Peterson Zwane

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics

Michael Kremer

Harvard University - Department of Economics; Brookings Institution; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Center for Global Development; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: March 2007

Abstract

The Millennium Development Goals call for reducing by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water. This goal was adopted in large part because clean water was seen as critical to fighting diarrheal disease, which kills 2 million children annually. There is compelling evidence that provision of piped water and sanitation can substantially reduce child mortality. However, in dispersed rural settlements, providing complete piped water and sanitation infrastructure to households is expensive. Many poor countries have therefore focused instead on providing community-level water infrastructure, such as wells. Various traditional child health interventions have been shown to be effective in fighting diarrhea. Among environmental interventions, handwashing and point-of-use water treatment both reduce diarrhea, although more needs to be learned about ways to encourage households to take up these behavior changes. In contrast, there is little evidence that providing community-level rural water infrastructure substantially reduces diarrheal disease or that this infrastructure can be effectively maintained. Investments in communal water infrastructure short of piped water may serve other needs and may reduce diarrhea in particular circumstances, but the case for prioritizing communal infrastructure provision needs to be made rather than assumed.

Suggested Citation

Zwane, Alix Peterson and Kremer, Michael R., What Works in Fighting Diarrheal Diseases in Developing Countries? A Critical Review (March 2007). NBER Working Paper No. w12987. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=975928

Alix Peterson Zwane (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics ( email )

Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Michael R. Kremer

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

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Brookings Institution

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Center for Global Development

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Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

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