- Diarrheal diseases weigh heavily on the health of children, especially in developing countries, but also impose burdens on health care services worldwide. This study was performed to determine whether patterns of referrals in the Negev to the pediatric emergency room (PER) for diarrhea differ between the Jewish and Bedouin populations of the Negev, and the extent of the burden imposed on the PER and in-hospital services in the Negev. Characteristics of referrals and hospitalizations were examined from March 1994 to February 1995. Of the 27,834 referrals to the PER for children under 16, 2518 (9%) had diarrhea and there were 5,169 hospital admissions, 701 (13.6%). The annual rates of referral were 146 per 10,000 in Jews and 225 in Bedouin, giving an odds ratio (OR) of 1.5 (p < 0.001). for Bedouin. The rates of hospitalization were 23 per 10,000 in Jews and 99 in Bedouin (OR 4.4, p < 0.001). 1380 (54.8%) of the PER referrals were of infants under a year of age. For hospitalization, the annual rates were 164 per 10,000 in Jews and 756 in Bedouin (OR 4.9, p < 0.001). During June to August referrals and hospitalizations for diarrhea were significantly higher, and from December to February significantly lower than during the remaining months. These differences arise from the marked seasonal pattern in the Bedouin population, whereas in the Jewish population there was no seasonal variation. Even in the 90's the burden on health services in the Negev as a result of diarrheal illness is considerable and the Bedouin population still contributes to that burden disproportionately. There is need both to reduce the gap in referrals and hospitalization between the populations, as well as to reduce the rates, using currently available means such as education, while developing new technologies, such as vaccines.