Household Choice of Diarrhea Treatments for Children under the Age of Five in Kenya

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University of Nairobi
Childhood diarrhea is one of the leading causes of under-5 deaths in developing countries, including Kenya. Although it is one of the most easily prevented and managed childhood illnesses, it is the third leading cause of under-5 mortality and kills about 86 children in Kenya every day. The World Health Organization recommends the use of oral rehydration therapy (ORT) to manage diarrhea once it occurs as well as the use of zinc supplements to reduce the severity and future recurrence of the illness. This study investigated the factors that influence the household choice of treatments for children suffering from diarrhea across the country using a multinomial logit approach. A sample of 771 under-5 children was drawn from the 2008/2009 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey. It was found that 29.86 percent of the children were not administered with any sort of treatment for their diarrhea. Besides ORT and zinc, other treatments such as antibiotic drugs, antimotility drugs, and herbal medicines were used to manage childhood diarrhea. It was surprising to note that only 4 of the affected children were given zinc supplements. The study also found that prior knowledge/experience of oral rehydration salts, mother’s education level, and place of residence were key determining factors of the use of recommended treatments to manage diarrhea. Factors such as household wealth, mother’s age at birth and number of births in a span of five years were equally important for other treatments. Given the inadequate and low usage of ORT and zinc respectively, the study recommends strengthening awareness on childhood diarrhea and the recommended treatments that can be used to manage it as well as increasing the availability and accessibility of zinc supplements.