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Author Picture By - Sep 08, 2017

By Rachel Dekker, Community Investment & Partnerships, Teck and Meg French, Chief Program Officer, UNICEF Canada

Rag pickers from the slums of Jaunpur’s urban areas live in some of the most underserved communities in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Poor sanitary conditions and limited access to basic health services make children living in these areas prone to repeated bouts of diarrhea.

Diarrheal disease, which causes dehydration and contributes to malnutrition, can have long term implications for a child’s healthy growth and development and can even be fatal. But, a simple yet critical low-cost course of zinc and oral rehydration salts (ORS) recommended by the World Health Organization can treat diarrhea, replenish nutritional zinc, and help save a child’s life.

Globally, more than half a million children die from diarrheal disease each year. India currently accounts for 17% of the world’s under-five deaths. There are stark inequalities within the country: Children born into the poorest 20% of India’s population are three times more likely to die during those first five years than children from more affluent parts of the country. India’s more than 200,000 deaths annually from diarrhea are largely preventable. Better access to therapeutic zinc and ORS can help stop this unnecessary loss of young lives.

As one of the world’s largest producers of zinc and a participant in the United Nations’ Every Woman Every Child movement, Teck is committed to helping solve the global health issue of zinc deficiency. Teck’s Zinc & Health program comprises investments in therapeutic zinc, zinc supplementation, food fortification, crop nutrition, and awareness and advocacy. In 2013, Teck and UNICEF partnered to address preventable childhood diarrheal deaths in three high-burden states in India. The partnership focuses on scaling up the supply of zinc and ORS interventions and raises awareness in communities to increase their use. Teck and UNICEF aim to save 100,000 children’s lives over the course of the project, and lay the foundation so that 50,000 lives will be saved annually even after on-the-ground activities wrap up.

Teck and UNICEF are working with local partners to train health care providers on diarrhea prevention and management. With this training, Community Mobilization Coordinators (CMCs) such as Anees Fatima are deployed into their own communities to counsel families in hard to reach places. Routine immunization visits in Jaunpur’s urban areas often become occasions to address other health questions and dispel misinformation about the treatment of diarrhea.

Anees learned from parents Afsana and Namzi that their eight-month-old son Chand was suffering from diarrhea. She helped them to understand the impact of dehydration on Chand’s body, demonstrated how to prepare the zinc & ORS, and taught them when and how to use it.

Anees left the family with supplies for a full course of treatment: Chand got better and did not relapse. “Working as a Community Mobilization Coordinator is incredible work,” said Anees with pride. “I help sick children be well again. Until the last day of my life, this is what I will do!”

CMCs play a key role in driving the success and impact of the partnership. They provide critical treatments and are a trusted voice for important health information to parents from their communities. Monuja Bibi, the mother of 15-month-old Priya, was initially hesitant to try zinc & ORS as other medicines had only provided her daughter temporary relief and kept her suffering from repeated diarrhea episodes. Shardra, her community’s CMC, learned about Priya while counseling another family in the slum. Using flip chart images, Shardra’s explanation of the importance of proper treatment to avoid long-term malnutrition changed Monuja’s perspective.

“After we began taking zinc & ORS, my children and I got better,” she explained. CMCs see Monuja and other mothers like her become advocates for zinc & ORS treatment too. CMCs and mothers educating their neighbours are fostering long-term sustainable impact on the lives of children and families throughout their communities.

To date, the partnership has helped advance Sustainable Development Goal 3 (Health and Well-being) by saving the lives of more than 61,000 children with zinc and ORS and by ensuring families know about and can access this simple but effective treatment. Together, Teck and UNICEF continue to prevent childhood deaths and help children thrive. Watch our video at www.zincsaveslives.com.

This post is part of the “SDG Solutions” series hosted by the United Nations Foundation, Global Daily, and +SocialGood to raise awareness of ways the international community can advance, and is advancing, progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. Previous posts in the series can be found here 

Teck is part of the Every Woman Every Child movement, launched in 2010 and led by the UN Secretary-General, to intensify commitment and action by governments, the UN, multilaterals, the private sector, and civil society to keep women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health and wellbeing at the heart of development. As a multi-stakeholder platform to operationalize the Every Woman Every Child Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health, the movement mobilizes partnerships and coordinated efforts across sectors to ensure that all women, children and adolescents not only survive, but also thrive to help transform the world. Learn more: http://www.everywomaneverychild.org/

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