National epidemic diarrhoea task team initiative

Diarrhoea is not a disease but a debilitating symptom of a set of diseases caused by viruses, bacteria and parasites. As such, addressing the problem lacks the focus of a single organism disease such as AIDS or TB. However similar interventions are required to address the prevention of diarrhoea, irrespective of the organism. Until the recent commissioned study referred to below there were no existing estimates on the economic or the quality of life costs of diarrhoea in South Africa. Even estimates of the number of deaths per year in South Africa varied by more than an order of magnitude from 8000 to over 200 000 (Coetzee N and Bourne D , 1996; Wittenberg, D 1996; Grobler D, 1994). Thus diarrhoea is the leading cause of death in South Africa. There are no other causes of death for which national estimates vary so much.