El Niño-Southern oscillation and under-5 diarrhea in Botswana
Childhood diarrheal disease causes significant morbidity and mortality in low and middle income countries, yet our ability to accurately predict diarrhea incidence remains limited. El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) has been shown to affect diarrhea dynamics in South America and Asia. However, understanding of its effects in sub-Saharan Africa, where the burden of under-5 diarrhea is high, remains inadequate. Here we investigate the connections between ENSO, local environmental conditions, and childhood diarrheal disease in Chobe District, Botswana. Our results demonstrate that La Niña conditions are associated with cooler temperatures, increased rainfall, and higher flooding in the Chobe region during the rainy season. In turn, La Niña conditions lagged 0–5 months are associated with higher than average incidence of under-5 diarrhea in the early rainy season. These findings demonstrate the potential use of ENSO as a long-lead prediction tool for childhood diarrhea in southern Africa.