Girl education, breastfeeding help Kerala to stave off diarrhoea: ASCODD Prez

India’s southern states, especially Kerala, were able to contain the incidence of diarrhoeal diseases largely due to women’s education and breastfeeding, according to Prof. Nirmal Kumar Ganguly, President, Asian Conference on Diarrhoeal Disease and Nutrition (ASCODD).

“South Indian states pip their counterparts in the North in preventing this disease. Social development is high in these states and if a child is given breastfeeding at least for six months, the child is largely protected,” Prof. Ganguly said here today during an interaction at the three-day 14th ASCODD, which began at the Crowne Plaza Hotel here.

He explained that lack of girls’ education, malnutrition, paucity of latrines and gender imbalance are some reasons why states like Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh are struggling to ward off diarrhoeal diseases.

Prof. Ganguly suggested WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene), balanced nutrition and vaccines such as rotavirus, typhoid vaccine and cholera vaccine as preventive measures for diarrhoeal diseases.

“WASH can be connected to Swachh Bharat Mission, and other preventive activities could be linked to the National Health Mission, which moves to the lowest level of the healthcare,” he opined.

“The disease is a hindrance to the growth of nation as one of the outcomes of diarrhoea is stunted children. If you have a stunted nation, its growth in every sphere is affected. So this is very much linked to the development of a nation,” the expert stressed.

About the biennial conference, Prof. Ganguly said that during the early 60s or 70s, diarrhoeal diseases were one of the largest killers of children below five.

“That was one of the major causes of morbidity in children up to adolescence, and for those who survived, it led to malnutrition and many children became stunted. Nutrition is the highest challenge still in India. Though the mortality rate of diarrhoea has come down in rural areas, it is still the second killer after pneumonia with regard to children below five,” he pointed out.

Explaining about the formation of the ASCODD, he said a group of researchers from the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (NICED) from Kolkata held a meeting with International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr, b) in Dhaka in 1981 to discuss the challenges posed by diseases like cholera, diarrhoea, typhoid and water-borne hepatitis.

“I was part of the Indian delegation in the bilateral meeting. The next meeting was held in Kolkata in 1984 and later we expanded our activities to other Asian countries. Subsequent meetings were held in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Pakistan,” he said, and added that the ASCODD conducts awareness; creates networking and industry academia; identifies research in the area and public health methods; and is bringing global research and thoughts to India.

As Dr. Firdausi Qadri from Bangladesh assumes charge as the next President post the conference, the ASCODD will be headquartered in Dhaka.

Over 61scientists from countries, including the UK, the US, Bangladesh, Germany, India, France and Sweden, will present papers at the conference.

It has been organised by the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology, a national institute under the Department of Biotechnology, Govt. of India in association with 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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