In the developing world, diarrhoeal disease is a significant cause of childhood morbidity especially amongst severely malnourished children. As a direct result of improved acute-phase management of this group of patients, there has been a 47 per cent reduction in the death rate among severely malnourished children hospitalized at the ICDDR,B in Bangladesh. The change in the risk factors for death among children aged under 5 years presenting with diarrhoea was reassessed. The charts of 366 children under 5 years of age who were hospitalized for diarrhoeal disease in the year 1998 were retrospectively analysed. One hundred and eighty-three of these patients died and 183 of those who survived acted as controls. Univariate analysis found 12 significant risk factors on admission that impacted outcome. Only two factors, female sex and positive blood culture, remained significant in the multivariate analysis with odds ratios (95 per cent CI) of 2.05 (1.1-4.0) and 4.6 (1.7-12.4), respectively. Prior to the change in the protocol involving the management of severely malnourished children, only severe malnutrition and non-breastfeeding were found to be significant predictors of mortality.