The power of zinc: Nowfel’s story

Nowfel

Nowfel is a young boy who lives with his family in the Pirojpur district of Bangladesh. At just 23 months old, he is the youngest child in his house.

One day, Nowfel developed diarrhoea, as he frequently did. However, this time, the episodes did not reduce and took longer and longer to subside. Usually smiling and playful, Nowfel became increasingly pale and weak.

His condition worsened so fast that his parents started preparing for the two-hour trip to the nearest hospital, located in Khulna. They were so anxious that they did not think to consult with the community health care provider (CHCP) at the nearby local community clinic Nowfel visits regularly for growth monitoring follow-ups.

During this period, the family was visited by a neighbour, Nadiramoni, who listened as Nowfel’s mother explained her son’s rapidly deteriorating situation. A college student, Nadiramoni knew low osmolarity oral rehydration salts (ORS) –the only treatment Nowfel had been receiving so far – alone are not as effective to fight recurrent instances of diarrhoea and that there was a better treatment available: a combination of zinc and ORS. She advised the family to take Nowfel to the community clinic.

There, the staff were well equipped to treat such severe cases of childhood diarrhoea. Through the Zinc Alliance for Child Health (ZACH), they had undergone diarrhoea management training provided by Nutrition International. As part of this initiative, Nutrition International also conducted training for local public health officers and village doctors and distributed educational materials to community clinics.

Armed with this knowledge and training, CHCP Kholilur Rahman examined dehydrated Nowfel and prescribed him zinc and ORS tablets for 10 days. He also advised the family about safe water, sanitation and hygiene practices, which can help prevent diarrhoea. Within two days, Nowfel started showing signs of improvement. Smiles came back to the faces of Nowfel and his family members.

Now Nowfel’s family knows that a combination of zinc and ORS is a simple and inexpensive treatment for diarrhoea − and that it can reduce the duration and severity of diarrhoeal episodes. According to health surveys, this combination is increasingly being used by caregivers to treat episodes of childhood diarrhoea across Bangladesh.

ZACH is a global partnership between Teck Resources Limited, the Government of Canada and Nutrition International to reach millions of children with zinc and ORS treatments to help save children’s lives in Senegal, Ethiopia, Kenya and Bangladesh.