03/06/2017 6:14 PM AEST | Updated 03/06/2017 6:14 PM AEST

More Than A Fifth Of The World’s Child Diarrhoeal Deaths Occur In India

India continues to contribute the most child deaths due to diarrhoeal disease globally--over 1 lakh child deaths in 2015 alone--a new report in the medical journal Lancet has found.

Globally, mortality from diarrhoeal disease is dropping and faster still in India; while deaths from diarrhoea in children under the age of 5 declined by 34.3% globally between 2005 and 2015, in India the rate of reduction was an even faster 43.2% However, India's relative success was not enough to move it from the position of the country which contributes the most child diarrhoeal deaths. Between them, India and Nigeria are responsible for 42% of child deaths on account of diarrhoeal disease, but Nigeria's progress was slower than India's between 2005 and 2015. Countries like Bangladesh (60.4%) and China (71%) did much more to reduce child mortality from diarrhoea, according to a new Global Burden of Disease study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal.

"Diarrhoeal diseases disproportionately affect young children," lead author Dr Ali Mokdad, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, USA, said. "Despite some promising reductions in mortality, the devastating impact of these diseases cannot be overlooked. Immediate and sustained actions must be taken to help low-income countries address this problem by increasing healthcare access and the use of oral rehydration solutions."

Globally, diarrhoea is the fourth biggest killer of children under the age of five, while in India it is the third biggest killer after birth complications and pneumonia. Diarrhoeal diseases are primarily caused as a result of poor access to clean water and sanitation. The rotavirus is the leading cause of diarrhoeal disease, but it is also, the Lancet report notes, the only cause that has registered a decrease in the last ten years; diarrhoea from other parasites is on the rise. India administers a rotavirus vaccine as part of its immunisation programme, but it is not yet available in all states.

The report suggests the development of more vaccines against the other parasites that cause diarrhoea. "More thorough understanding of each cause of diarrhoea and how this varies geographically will help target interventions to reduce death and disability from these preventable diseases. A greater focus on vaccine development and more intentional improvements in safe water, sanitation, and hygiene will help accelerate reductions in deaths and sickness," Dr. Mokdad said.

India's mortality rate--the number of children who die of diarrhoeal disease for every 100,000 children--was however considerably lower than the worst hit sub-Saharan African countries. India lost 84 children to diarrhoeal disease for every 100,000 in 2015 as compared to Chad (594) and Niger (485). India's child diarrhoeal mortality rate was still substantially higher than other comparable developing countries like Bangladesh (25) and China (2.3).