DAKAR – Canadian partners the Micronutrient Initiative, the Government of Canada and Teck launched a major project with the Senegal Ministry of Health today that will save young lives from diarrhea, a condition that can be deadly if untreated.
Each year, 1.5 million children under the age of five die from complications associated with diarrhea, including 6,000 in Senegal. Zinc is an essential micronutrient that can prevent and treat diarrhea, yet two billion people around the world do not get enough zinc through their diets.
The Zinc Alliance for Child Health (ZACH) project in Senegal will scale up the use of zinc supplementation and oral rehydration salts (ORS) to treat diarrhea across the country. This simple solution, that costs as little as 50 cents per treatment, reduces the severity of diarrhea and can save lives.
The project will aim to treat more than 2 million cases of diarrhea in children under the age of five over the next three years. Zinc and ORS treatment will be delivered through health care workers at 4,000 service delivery points in Senegal.
The project is being launched as part of Senegal’s wider diarrhea prevention and treatment program under the “Division d’alimentation, nutrition et survie de l’enfance”. It will contribute to the country’s overall efforts to reduce child mortality rates and to meet its commitment to the United Nations Millennium Development Goal 4: Reducing Child Mortality.
“Our government values strong partnerships that make a difference in the lives of children and women in developing countries. The Micronutrient Initiative has been a Canadian partner that has helped improve the health of millions recognizing the importance of good nutrition and food supplementation,” says Canadian Minister of International Cooperation Beverley Oda. “We are proud to have Teck join our existing partnership to promote the benefits of zinc to ensure healthier families.”
This project is recognized as a high impact solution that supports Canada’s Maternal and Under-five Child Health objectives.
“As one of the world’s largest producers of zinc, we recognize the ability we have to make a difference,” says Doug Horswill, Senior Vice President at Teck. “Through this partnership with the Micronutrient Initiative, the Government of Canada and the Ministry of Health in Senegal we will improve local awareness about zinc deficiency, enhance distribution systems and ultimately save children’s lives.”
Project components include behaviour change communication and increasing knowledge so that more caregivers, health practitioners and community members know of the importance of treating diarrhea with zinc and ORS. The project also aims to make the management of childhood diarrhea a key part of reducing of child mortality. ZACH will work with all levels of government to help ensure the availability of supplies and treatment that is affordable for families, communities and the health system as a whole. Treatment will be monitored to track progress on the project.
“With the Government of Senegal’s clear commitment to reducing child deaths, launching the first ZACH project in this country was a natural choice,” says Venkatesh Mannar, President of the Micronutrient Initiative. “We will prove how effective zinc and ORS is in treating diarrhea and saving children’s lives. This could very well be the next revolution in child survival.”
“Our objective is to ensure that every child with diarrhea is treated correctly and efficiently through the use of zinc in combination with oral rehydration therapy,” says Eva Marie Coll Seck, Senegal’s Minister of Health. “The ZACH project will support the Government of Senegal’s efforts to significantly reduce the mortality rate of children under five. We sincerely appreciate this support that will help our efforts to achieve Millennium Development Goal 4.”