Background: In preparation of vaccines trials to estimate protection against shigellosis and cholera we conducted a two-year community-based surveillance study in an impoverished area of North Jakarta which provided updated information on the disease burden in the area. Methods: We conducted a two-year community-based surveillance study from August 2001 to July 2003 in an impoverished area of North Jakarta to assess the burden of diarrhoea, shigellosis, and cholera. At participating health care providers, a case report form was completed and stool sample collected from cases presenting with diarrhoea. Results: Infants had the highest incidences of diarrhoea (759/1 000/ year) and cholera (4/1 000/year). Diarrhea incidence was significantly higher in boys under 5 years (387/1 000/year) than girls under 5 years (309/1 000/year; p<0.001). Children aged 1 to 2 years had the highest incidence of shigellosis (32/1 000/year). Shigella flexneri was the most common Shigella species isolated and 73% to 95% of these isolates were resistant to ampicillin, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, chloramphenicol and tetracycline but remain susceptible to nalidixic acid, ciprofloxacin, and ceftriaxone. We found an overall incidence of cholera of 0.5/1 000/year. Cholera was most common in children, with the highest incidence at 4/1 000/year in those less than 1 year of age. Of the 154 V. cholerae 01 isolates, 89 (58%) were of the El Tor Ogawa serotype and 65 (42%) were El Tor Inaba. Thirty-four percent of patients with cholera were intravenously rehydrated and 22% required hospitalization. V. parahaemolyticus infections were detected sporadically but increased from July 2002 onwards. Conclusions: Diarrhoea causes a heavy public health burden in Jakarta particularly in young children. The impact of shigellosis is exacerbated by the threat of antimicrobial resistance, whereas that of cholera is aggravated by its severe manifestations.