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Mothers in African Study Undereducated on Diarrhea

rural town of Gondar during his sophomore year January intersession.

“I was extremely shocked at the severity of the conditions of the children I saw there,” he said. “It was not uncommon to find them experiencing diarrhea for two weeks continuously. They came to the clinic with sunken eyes, poor skin turgor and poor thirst, all signs of severe dehydration. They were malnourished, were not receiving adequate fluids, and their mothers were not taking the steps to prevent diarrhea in their children. I wanted to do something about this problem.”

Mediratta decided that the best way to ascertain how a successful public health initiative might be launched against diarrhea in Ethiopia was to study how Ethiopian mothers handled the disease, and then compare their habits and methods to those of moms in Bangladesh, home of the International Center for Diarrheal Disease Research.

“I chose Bangladesh because the International Center is the ‘gold standard’ for treatment of diarrheal diseases in developing countries, so it can be considered a model for how diarrhea might best be managed in Ethiopia, too,” Mediratta said.

Mediratta decided that the clinic in Gondar – a small, rural town in northwestern Ethiopia – was the ideal setting for his study, because “my research would have greater value in an area where diarrhea is a major community health problem.” The town has become a temporary home to about 10,000 displaced Ethiopians.

With approval from the university committee that oversees research on human subjects, he carefully designed a survey that assessed risk factors known to contribute to diarrheal disease in children, including socio-economic level, child nutrition, maternal hand-washing hygiene and latrine and water use. The goal, he said, was to “identify those determinants that could be modified by mothers to reduce morbidity associated with diarrhea.”

Mediratta then trained 13 health facilitators
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