What do you do when you have a major health problem you want highlighted that involves the death of more than a million children?
But what's so funny about more than a million children dying every year? Nothing, except that is has to do with poop. And poop (or whatever people call it around the world: scheisse, kaka, poopoo, shit) can be funny if you indulge your inner six-year old.
So focus on poop is what folks at Path International -- a leading global health organization -- decided to do to raise awareness about diarrheal disease: one of the leading killers of children under five around the world and the leading cause of malnutrition.
They produced a campaign called "What's New in Poo?" to try to get people to pay attention to this highly preventable problem, which is responsible for the deaths of about 1.5 million children each year. I'll say it again: more than 1 million kids a year. That's over 4,000 dead kids EACH DAY (about 57 yellow school buses every single day) who lose their lives to poop in its watery, smelly and sickly form.
The campaign came with a haiku contest. Here are a few gems from last year:
Thunder down under/Got the dysentery blues/Can you spare a square?
If you've ever said / that you're dying for the loo / just think, people do @silverbomber
Caca, scheisse, poo / maybe call it number 2 / something we all do. @giselavoss
Flush toilets are great / Latrines work, too. If you're in / Doubt, bury your poo.
2011 / AND DIARRHEA KILLS KIDS? / COME ON! LET'S TALK SHIT @ExplodingSoul
So indeed, let's talk shit for a moment, because with all the talk about HIV/AIDS and TB and Malaria, diarrheal diseases are not very high on the agenda in this country. In fact, according to the One World campaign the death toll due to diarrheal illnesses in kids "exceeds that of AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined."
This year's Poo Haiku contest is just underway: Path International is calling all "poo-ets" to submit or tweet their own haikus using #poohaiku.
Funny or not, here are the facts:
Diarrheal Diseases such cholera and dysentery account for as much as 22 percent of all childhood deaths around the world.
Every week, 31,000 children in low-income countries die from diarrheal diseases.
Diarrhea is usually a symptom of an infection in the intestinal tract, which can be caused by a variety of bacterial, viral and parasitic organisms.
Infection is spread through contaminated food or drinking-water, or from person-to-person as a result of poor hygiene.
Diarrhea disease is treatable with a solution of clean water, sugar and salt, and with zinc tablets.
Worldwide, around 1 billion people lack access to improved water and 2.5 billion have no access to basic sanitation.
Prevention is key, and some measures include:
a. Access to safe drinking-water
b. Improved sanitation
c. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6-months of life
d. Health education
e. Vaccination against Rota virus (one of the infectious culprits)
f. Good personal and food hygiene
Global Hand Washing Day, by the way, is just around the corner, celebrated this year on October 15th.
Path International also produced this video which I recently learned about while attending a Global Health Conference in DC. It certainly delighted my inner six-year-old. My 13-year old daughter thought it was "cool." My 16-year-old son was less enthralled proclaiming it "too cheesy." Though that too can, in some circumstances, cause diarrhea, particularly if you are lactose intolerant.
Follow Ranit Mishori, M.D., MHS on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ranitmd