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Zinc to the rescue

Aarti Dhar
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A joint programme by UNICEF and Teck could save the lives of over 150,000 children dying of diarrhoea in India

Dangerous diarrhoea:A major cause for child mortality.Photo: M. Vedhan
Dangerous diarrhoea:A major cause for child mortality.Photo: M. Vedhan

The lives of over 150,000 children in the country could be saved by a $5-million-programme launched in India by UNICEF-Canada and Teck under the Zinc Alliance for Child Health(ZACH).

The five-year programme aims at scaling up the use of zinc supplementation and oral rehydration salts (ORS) to treat diarrhoea while strengthening healthcare systems across India.

More children under the age of five years die in India than anywhere else in the world.

One of the leading causes of these deaths is diarrhoea. Currently, only two per cent Indian children have access to zinc and ORS, a cost-effective and proven life-saving diarrhoea treatment. A 10-day course of zinc tablets costs only 30 cents while a sachet of ORS costs 10 cents.

The programme is expected to save 50,000 lives annually; Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh together have the highest burden of childhood diarrhoea.

The programme also aims to educate health workers and communities while strengthening the local supply chain to ensure zinc and ORS are accessible and that achievements made over the next five years are sustainable in the long term.

“In India, the number of children dying from diarrhoea is particularly dire. As one of the world’s largest producers of zinc, we have the ability and knowledge to help address this critical children’s health issue,” says Doug Horswill, senior vice-president at Teck.

The programme also contributes to the centre’s commitment to reduce child deaths through the Call to Action for Child Survival: A Promise Renewed.

The call to action was co-led by the governments of India, Ethiopia and the U.S. with UNICEF’s support. It is working to mobilise political leadership to end preventable child deaths through innovative and proven strategies worldwide.


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