Renewed impetus to prevent and control diarrheal diseases in African children

CAPE TOWN | With over 215, 000 infants and children dying annually from diarrhoea caused by rotavirus, health experts are meeting at Emperors’ Palace in Johannesburg, South Africa from 30th July -1st August 2019. The three-day meeting aims to share ideas and expertise on how to prevent and control diarrhoeal diseases in Africa through improved vaccine introduction.

Organised by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), the 12th African Rotavirus Symposium is attracting over 300 African rotavirus researchers, policy-makers, clinicians, public health practitioners, health officials, representatives of development organisations and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF.

“The pace at which vaccine introduction on the continent is taking place is encouraging and this symposium affords us an opportunity to further accelerate vaccine introduction in African countries and beyond,” says SAMRC Vice President and the Symposium Chairperson, Professor Jeffrey Mphahlele.

Rotavirus is the leading cause of severe diarrhoea in children under five years worldwide. On average, rotavirus kills more than 330 African children under the age of five every day and causes a significant proportion of diarrhoeal disease hospitalisations. In 2010, rotavirus accounted for 42% of all diarrhoeal disease hospitalisations in sub-Saharan Africa.  The introduction of the rotavirus vaccine in South Africa reduced rotavirus hospitalizations by 54-58% in 2010 and 2011 in children <5 years and was associated with a temporal decrease in all-cause diarrhoea of 40-65% between 2006 and 2014 in children <2 years.

The three-day meeting comes at a pivotal time as 96 countries worldwide, including 33 in Africa, have introduced vaccines to prevent rotavirus.

The Symposium is organised under the auspices of the African Rotavirus Network (AfrRN), which continues to shape the agenda of rotavirus research and prevention globally. The AfrRN is a regional network of institutions conducting research on paediatric diarrhoeal diseases.  It was established in 1998 in order to address diarrhoeal disease in Africa; to determine the rotavirus burden of disease; examine the diversity of circulating strains; and to increase awareness around rotavirus disease in Africa.

Media Queries:

South African Medical Research Council:

Keletso Ratsela 
Media Strategist 

Tel: +27 71 214 5272

Alfred Thutloa
Head of Corporate Communications
+27 74 885 7649

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation:

Amber Zeddies
Associate Communications Officer
Tel: +1-206-709-3400
Email: /

WHO Regional Office for Africa

Collins Boakye-Agyemang
Communications Officer
Tel: +47 24 13 94 20

Release date: 
Monday, July 22, 2019 - 15:51