A morbidity study of diarrhoea covering 1926 children aged less than 5 years was carried out in Goroka town and the Lowa and Asaro Census Divisions, Eastern Highlands Province between 1986 and 1989. The study involved weekly demographic surveillance of the total population and morbidity surveillance of children by lay reporters who enquired about the presence or absence on any of the preceding 8 days of a range of symptoms associated with diarrhoeal and respiratory diseases. A three-day symptom-free period was used to define distinct episodes of diarrhoea. The average number of episodes/child-year for all children in the study population was 3.0. Boys suffered a significantly higher incidence of diarrhoea under 48 months of age than girls (4.4 episodes compared to 3.6/child-year). Incidence was highest among those aged 6-17 months (5.5/child-year) with a rapid decline after age 35 months. Incidence of diarrhoea was highest in the more remote Asaro Census Division and was higher in periurban areas than in Goroka town. Incidence also varied significantly between villages, some villages experiencing up to 10 times the incidence of diarrhoea found in Goroka town. The incidence of diarrhoea was significantly higher in January than at other times of year. Duration of diarrhoea varied with age, the longest duration being an average of 4.7 days in the 12-17 months age group. In order to reduce diarrhoea morbidity, it is necessary to improve access to water, encourage improved hygiene practices and breastfeeding and warn people about the risks of sleeping with pigs.